Paddon on top as Gilmour sits on the podium
Hayden Paddon has overcome a driveshaft problem in his Hyundai i20 AP4 to take a convincing lead at the end of day one of the Otago Rally.
Paddon and co-driver, John Kennard, won all but one of the day’s seven stages to finish the day with a big lead of over three minutes.
Second place is held by the factory-backed Skoda Fabia R5 Evo of former champion Ben Hunt, while Dunedin’s favourite daughter, Emma Gilmour, is third in a Suzuki Swift AP4.
The opening day of the 2022 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship was held in perfect weather conditions. There were clear blue skies and a swift breeze to blow the dust away on the dry, barren stages to the north east of Dunedin.
As the day wore on, the gap between the dominant Paddon and his rivals seemed to close slightly, with both Hunt and Stokes upping their pace, particularly on the final stage of the day.
Still, it will take a major issue for the Cromwell-based former WRC star to relinquish the lead on the second day.
Gilmour will take plenty of confidence from her opening eight stages. She was second early on, but dropped to third behind Hunt, and remains well with striking distance of her rival.
Raana Horan is a further 25 seconds behind Gilmour in fourth place, with Ari Pettigrew in a Holden Barina AP4 just 2.1 seconds back in fifth.
Pettigrew has so far impressed punters with his speed in his first national championship drive of his new car.
Robbie Stokes has had driveline issues in his Ford Fiesta AP4, but is still sitting in sixth place. He’s less than a minute back from the podium places, so will be pushing hard on the final day in his bid for NZ championship points.
The top 10 after Day 1 is rounded out by Todd Bawden (Ford Fiesta), Regan Ross (Ford Fiesta), Dylan Turner (Audi S1) and Mike Young (Subaru).
The factory supported Toyota Yaris AP4 of Jack Hawkeswood is back in 16th place after losing over five minutes earlier in the day.
Matt Summerfield was the major retirement from the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship field. His Mitsubishi Mirage AP4 suffered a turbo failure on stage one, but he hopes to return for tomorrow’s final eight stages.
The second day of the Otago Rally will feature eight stages, with a competitive distance of 133km, starting at 7.30am. The itinerary includes some of the sport’s most famous stages, including Waipori Gorge, Whare Flat and Kuri Bush.
The podium presentation will be in the seaside village of Brighton at 3pm.