Local favourites, Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are leading the Super 2000 World Rally Championship category of Brother Rally New Zealand after the first day of action. However Paddon said he struggled all day with, first, car set-up and then, problems with the gearbox of his Skoda Fabia S2000 rally car.
Paddon, from Geraldine, and Kennard, from Blenheim, weren't too worried by the small lead that fellow SWRC competitor Per-Gunnar Andersson established in the day's first two stages south of Raglan. Paddon was more worried about the car.
"As the longest day of the event today with only a midday remote service in Raglan, we knew that we would have to look after the car but still push on at a good speed. Unfortunately that was something I was unable to do on the morning loop as we struggled with the set-up of the car in the slippery conditions. With the rear of the car sliding around a lot it was hard to carry any corner speed and we lost time with this."
But after Andersson crashed off the road in stage three, Paddon and Kennard got to the midday break with a healthy lead in the SWRC class and tenth overall.
Paddon said: "The afternoon started a little better until halfway through the famous Whaanga Coast stage, second gear went bang. It's a very crucial gear for this particular stage and meant we lost a lot of time but the bigger concern was whether we would get through the rest of the day with a very sick sounding gearbox."
The pair plugged on. In stage seven, sixth gear went. In stage eight, they lost the clutch, thus beginning a slow drive from the final stage at Te Akau, west of Huntly back to Auckland and the ASM Motorsport engineers.
"It was a matter of nursing the car through the stages to get back to the end of day service back in Auckland. I must admit that getting back to Auckland on the motorways, traffic lights, etc with no clutch meant it was almost a special stage of its own. We made it back however and our team did a great job repairing the car and is now as good as new for Saturday. We still hold a big lead in SWRC and are 12th overall, but unfortunately lost some time this afternoon to the WRC cars ahead. We will push tomorrow though on my favourite stages north of Auckland and hope to set some better stage times."
Saturday sees another eight stages, totalling 143.01 km, north of Auckland through the Kaipara and Whangarei regions with a remote service in Whangarei. Paddon and Kennard start 14th on the road, immediately behind eight-time world champions S�bastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, as the WRC drivers start day two in the reverse order of how they finish day one.
Sunday, the final day, includes 63.39 km of competition through the tarmac runs around Auckland Domain super special stage and stages around Puhoi and Kaukapakapa before the ceremonial finish at Silo Park on Auckland's Wynyard Quarter.
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