Hayden Paddon leads overall classification after first day of Rally Italia Sardegna
June 12, 2015 A competitive start to this weekend’s Sardinia Rally has seen Hayden Paddon finish the day at the top of the rally’s overall classification. All three of the teams cars were running strongly in the top five mid-way through the day but issues on the #7 and #8 cars pushed Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo down the classification at the end of the day.
The rally began with Thursday’s Super Special Stage in Cagliari before moving onto a range of new and returning stages today. Road position benefited those who started their runs later, while tyre choice also proved an important factor in performance. Nonetheless, the stages also placed a premium on accurate pace notes and driver commitment, which initially rewarded the Hyundai Motorsport drivers.
One year on from his competitive debut for our team, Hayden was one of the strongest drivers of the day. The young Kiwi took three stage wins in the morning and was in the overall lead early on. He performed well into the afternoon stages and established himself as a firm podium contender for the weekend ahead.
It’s been a great day, said Hayden. To lead the rally is an amazing feeling but to do so throughout the whole day is more than we could ever have imagined. We didn’t expect these stages to be our best but we made the most of our road position and tyre choice and things just clicked. I was confident in myself and taking the three stage wins was a surprise but we kept focused. We lost a bit of rhythm at times in the afternoon and were fortunate to finish the day after an issue on the final stage. I loved driving the car and had a comfortable speed. There’s still a long way to go so it’s important to stay calm and concentrate on the remaining stages.
Thierry showed flashes of competitiveness but his day was compromised by a puncture in SS3 and an engine stall on the following stage. He held a top-five position heading into the afternoon but a loose pipe on his turbo unit cost him a lot of time on the penultimate stage and he finished the day in the top six.
It has not been the start that we hoped for, said the Belgian. The morning loop wasn’t perfect but it was good to build my confidence. We had a couple of issues but generally it was OK. These stages are tricky and technical so we had to take extra care. We started the afternoon well but experienced a loss of power in SS9. We hope to return strongly for Saturday’s long day.
Dani picked up a ten second penalty for a start line infringement but fought back with four top-three stage times in the morning stages. He was holding fourth place into the afternoon but discovered a broken anti-roll bar on SS9. He then had a small impact in the days final session, SS10, which required him to remove the wheel. The damage meant he had to retire but he will restart under Rally 2 on Saturday.
It wasn’t ideal to start with the ten second loss but we put that quickly behind us, said the Spaniard. Our start position was good and that helped in the morning loop but we still had to make the right tyre choices. In the final stage, we were a bit unlucky because we had a small contact and we had to remove a rear wheel. We made it to the stage-end but had to retire due to the damage incurred. It was a very frustrating end to what was a positive day for me and the team up to that point but well re-join under Rally 2 tomorrow and see what can be achieved.
Three more stage wins today take the team’s season total to 12, showing that the Hyundai i20 WRC can hold itself against tough competition. The team remains confident despite the issues faced at the end of the day.
We have mixed feelings this evening because we had a good day overall but a tough end to the afternoon, said Team Principal Michel Nandan. The great news is that we are leading the rally at the end of the first day with Hayden, who has been driving confidently all day. He can be proud of his performance. An eight-second lead over Ogier is impressive considering he only made his WRC debut at this event last year. Dani had a good day so it was a shame that he had an issue on the final stage. Thierry, too, had a good morning but suffered mechanical problems. We’ll look into the issue tonight and return tomorrow with all three drivers resuming their charges for position with Dani restarting under Rally 2.
Saturday will see nine stages run, including the long 42.44km Monte Lerno, held twice with the famous Micky’s Jump. A total distance of 212.83km means that there is plenty to play for and plenty to lose.