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Hayden Paddon knows that day one of Rally Australia is the key day, with road position vital for the remainder of the rally. The New Zealander will drive a World Rally Car in competition for the first time since Rally Australia 12 months ago, when he finished second after a brilliant drive. Next week, he'll be at the wheel of an M-Sport Ford Fiesta and knows that his starting position on day one - 11th on the road - could help to determine his end of rally result. "Of course it will help, but there are also several other fast drivers just ahead of us on the road," Paddon said today,
"Saturday is always a really key day for road position, so we need to try and get up to speed as quickly as possible on Friday, so we can try and get ourselves in position for the rest of the rally."
Saturday's stages, south of Coffs Harbour, are likely to be the most slippery of the rally, as they are run on shire roads with a loose, gravel surface.

Hayden Paddon finished second for Hyundai in 2018. Photo: Peter Whitten

Paddon won't have much of a chance to get used to his new Fiesta ahead of the rally, with only the pre-event shakedown on Thursday morning to get his eye in. "Unfortunately we will have no test - just shakedown on Thursday," he said.
"The key is that I have a comfortable and predictable car under me that gives me confidence to push.
"All signs from our test a few weeks ago point towards that, but we obviously have to wait and see what it’s like in Australian conditions." Those conditions are likely to be hot and dry, with little rain on the Coffs Coast in recent months. Dry, hard surfaces are predicted, with lots of dust.

Hayden Paddon at the wheel of the Ford Fiesta WRC.

Nevertheless, Paddon will be determined to make the most of his chance to drive the M-Sport car, although he's more intent on enjoying the experience than focusing on a result. "I’m not even thinking of results," he stresses.
"It is going to be really tough for us to be competitive after 12 months away and not a lot of rallying this year.
"We will do our best, and as it could be my last WRC rally, it's important to enjoy it." Kennards Hire Rally Australia gets underway with a Super Special Stage on the Coffs Harbour jetty next Thursday night, before three hard days of rallying on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It's the final round of the 2019 World Rally Championship.
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