The Kiwi world champion pairing of Hayden Paddon and John Kennard got off to a flying start at Neste Oil Rally Finland, storming through the first special stage as the quickest competitors in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship category and 12th quickest overall.
Highlighting their pace in the new Baumschlager Rallye & Racing (BRR)-prepared car, Paddon and Kennard were just two seconds slower than French star driver Sébastien Ogier in a similar Skoda Fabia S2000-spec car through the first 13.68 km stage. Ogier isn't registered for SWRC points, but provides an important benchmark for the Kiwis.
With three stages now run in the bright sunshine of a Finnish summer evening on Thursday, local driver and new SWRC entrant Esapekka Lappi in a Ford Fiesta has the overnight lead in the SWRC category, just 1.5 seconds ahead of Paddon and Kennard. Swedish driver Per-Gunnar Andersson is third, 12.6 seconds down on Paddon while Irishman Craig Breen completed his first day back in SWRC after losing friend and co-driver Gareth Roberts in June and holds fourth overnight.
Paddon comes into this Finnish event at the top of the SWRC points-table with 62 points, giving him a 19 point margin over equal second placeholders Breen and Andersson.
Paddon's world rally campaign is made possible with the support of PlaceMakers, Giltrap Group, Skoda, Z Energy, ENZED, ATEED, Cameron Sea and Airfreight, Granger Design, Raiseys, New Balance, Pope Print, Racetech, Chicane Racewear, Endless Brake Pads, 1 Group web design, Brita Safety, Rally Tours, MAK-Corp, EPS International, Saddle Hill Quarries, Monit Rally Computers, Bluebridge Ferries, Stadium Finance, and Ewing Engineering Contractors.
Hayden Paddon RallySport shares news, images and results via the team's website www.haydenpaddon.com where fans can also subscribe for regular email updates and find links to the team's Twitter and Facebook pages.