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New Zealanders Hayden Paddon and John Kennard hold fourth equal place after the first day of Rally Finland among a 20-strong field in the new WRC2 category.
 
Paddon and Kennard, from Geraldine and Blenheim respectively, are the leading crew running a Super 2000 spec vehicle with their non-turbocharged Skoda Fabia while the other competitors in the top five are either running the new Ford Fiesta R5 or a Citroën DS3 RRC, both turbo-charged.
 
Thursday’s six special stages covered just 45.51 km of competitive stages and took competitors a long way south of the host city Jyväskylä toward Helsinki, running from the midday start through into the long sunlit evening hours of a Finnish summer. During these six short stages, Paddon was consistently in the top six. His best stage result was second quickest behind Finn Jari Ketomaa on the afternoon’s longest stage, 13.68 km.
 
Paddon reports: “There was not a whole lot of stage mileage, but it was a long day with over 400 km of touring between special stages and 10 hours in the car.
 
“Overnight we are sitting fourth equal in the WRC2 category and we have been happy with our pace. Second to sixth places are separated by just a few seconds, so it is close at the top of this class. We are the leading S2000 car which is important to us as it seems some of these new cars are quite fast. Today we had no dramas other than getting caught in a rain storm in SS5. This cost us quite a lot of time, but other than that the feeling in the car has been good, the pace notes have been working well.
 
“Tomorrow on the typical Finnish gravel stages, we can and will push harder and we can still be competitive with them. The full length, high speed stages will certainly suit me and the car better so I’m looking forward to it.”
 
Friday’s nine stages get underway around 9.45 am and 148.50 km later conclude with the hugely-popular super special stage at the Killeri harness racing track. The rally continues on Saturday which includes two runs of the 33 km Ouninpohja stage with its famous jumps, before concluding around 6 pm that evening.
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