Paddon can become PWRC champion if he secures the maximum 25 points available on Rally Australia at the wheel of his Subaru Impreza WRX STI.
“It’s going really good,” said the New Zealander. “The conditions have been incredibly difficult and I’ve been focusing on keeping the car in the middle of the road and avoiding making mistakes. It’s very easy to go off as we don’t have any grip. It’s really nice to see the Kiwi fans out there cheering for us, it’s good for your confidence.”
Michal Kosciuszko is second overnight despite damaging his car’s front suspension when he slid off the road in fifth gear on stage three and a brake problem on stage seven. “It has been very difficult to drive in these conditions where it is really difficult to predict the grip on each braking point,” said the Polish Mitsubishi Lancer driver.
Ukrainian Oleksandr Saliuk is third in his Mentos Ascania Racing Mitsubishi, one place ahead of Mexico’s Benito Guerra, who spun into a bank on stage seven.
WRC Academy regular Brendan Reeves, making a one-off appearance in the PWRC after taking over Anders Grondal’s registration, is fifth following a difficult day in his Subaru.
“Last night we made a mistake and checked in too early at the time control before the second run of the superspecial,” said Reeves. “This morning we drowned the air filter in the second watersplash in stage three and we lost power. Luckily we were carrying a spare and we were able to change it in the road section. On stage four we overshoot a junction and had to restart the car and reverse. It’s been a rollercoaster of a day.”
Behind Valeriy Gorban in sixth, Italian Gianluca Linari fought back from a troubled morning to complete day one in seventh place. “We broke the radiator on stage three, we lost all the water and the temperature became very high,” said the Italian veteran. “We drove very carefully trough stage four and stage five to avoid overheating and luckily we managed to reach service.”
Wildcard entrant Nathan Quinn, who hails from the Coffs Coast region where the event is based, has also suffered a difficult day on his way to eighth position at the overnight halt.
“Halfway through stage four we broke the intercooler hose and lost a lot of time as we had no power,” said Quinn, who completed the day without a front windscreen following a roll in the afternoon.
Abu Dhabi junior drivers Bader Al Jabri and Majed Al Shamsi failed to complete day one in their Subaru Imprezas. Finn Jukka Ketomaki tore a wheel off his Lancer, which he has hired from Hayden Paddon, on stage three. Briton Harry Hunt’s challenge was wrecked when his two-wheel-drive Citroen DS3 R3’s engine ingested too much water in the Shipmans stage watersplash and stalled for several minutes.