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Hayden Paddon and John Kennard took three stage wins in the WRC2 category during Friday’s six competitive stages of ADAC Rallye Deutschland, putting them in contention for another World Rally Championship podium finish.
The Kiwi pairing, in just their second WRC event this year, started the day sixth in WRC2 and 24th overall and ended the showery day fourth in WRC2, just 3.7 seconds away from third-place holder Sepp Wiegand and 11th overall.
Described by WRC.com as making a “superb recovery from sixth”, Paddon, in typical style, while happy with the day’s success, isn’t counting his chickens. “It is a long day tomorrow with the famous and tricky Panzaplatta stage. To throw a spanner in the works, heavy rain is also expected tomorrow afternoon so there is still a long way to go.”
Paddon describes the morning loop of three stages as tricky.
“The on-and-off light rain made tyre decisions very difficult. We took the hard compound tyre which worked well on the dry sections, but all of the stages we encountered sections where the road surface was damp, and in these sections we had to drive with our head and take it easy.
“We did however win all three stages, and to our surprise set one sixth-fastest and two seventh fastest stage times overall amongst the WRC cars.”
In WRC2 Paddon battled former Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica and 2012 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) Academy title winner Elfyn Evans for the top placing on each of the day’s six stages. With the morning’s three stage wins to his credit, Paddon didn’t ease up during the afternoon’s repeated loops. Kubica won each of the afternoon tests, Evans was second and Paddon was never more than 10.6 seconds slower than Kubica on the three stages all between 19 and 22 km in length.
“The afternoon stages were a little easier with the dry conditions and tyre decisions were easy – hard compound. We were able to continue taking time from Sepp Wiegand in third place in the factory Skoda. However the two turbo cars in front started to come into their own and we couldn’t quite keep pace with them. We know we lose the time out of the countless tight hairpin turns where we simply don’t have the power to get the car out of the corner. However, when it is faster and more flowing, we have a good chassis that allows us to keep up.
“All in all a great day – to pull back a minute on Sepp today was more than we expected, but this afternoon, in the drier conditions, we had no answer to the turbocharged cars of the two guys at the front. We expect more average weather tomorrow so perhaps we can make the right tyre choice again. We will be pushing for the podium.”
Twelve WRC2 competitors completed the day with Paddon’s closest rival in fifth place more than three and a half minutes adrift of the Kiwi. The WRC2 category includes Super 2000, R5 and RRC specification vehicles such as the Skoda, like Paddon’s, and the newer Ford Fiesta R5, Ford Fiesta RRC and Citroën DS3 RRC.
Saturday’s six stages include two runs of the famed 41 km Arena Panzerplatte in the Baumholder military reserve with the event wrapping up with another four stages on Sunday.
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