But it could have been a different story after the New Zealander returned to midday service in Coffs Harbour 49.6s adrift of the category lead when the hose connecting the turbo and the intercooler split, robbing Paddon of vital power.
Repairs at service allowed Paddon, who was more than 1m20s in front after day one, to up his pace during the afternoon to the extent he was back ahead of Michal Kosciuszko, in a Mitsubishi Lancer, at the completion of Saturday’s final gravel test.
However, it was a nervy afternoon for Paddon and co-driver John Kennard who were saddled by an overheating engine and front-end damage to their car after they accidentally ran over a wallaby on stage 16.
“We’ve been trying to push while keeping an eye on the temperature,” said Paddon. “We’ve not actually been able to open the bonnet to check because the impact pushed the radiator support panel back so we’ve been quite lucky to get through.”
Despite the various setbacks, Paddon will start day three leading Kosciuszko by 2.9s. If he is still leading at the finish in Coffs Harbour on Sunday afternoon then he will be crowned the provisional PWRC champion for 2011.
“We’ve got a supporter tour group of 70 people here so it will be nice to bring the championship home to them,” said Paddon. “But we’re back to square one with the lead and tomorrow is a long and difficult day.”
Kosciuszko started day two with a 10-second penalty, handed out for leaving Friday’s final service one minute late while his mechanics rushed to fix a gearbox problem. He admitted Paddon would have been out of touch had it not been for his delay. “He drove the perfect rally and deserves to win,” said the Polish driver.
Ukrainian Oleksandr Saliuk is an impressive third in his Mentos Ascania Racing Mitsubishi with Benito Guerra recovering from a spin on stage 11 to hold fourth spot in his Lancer. Valeriy Gorban is fifth with Italian veteran Gianluca Linari sixth.
Brendan Reeves took advantage of Guerra’s spin on Saturday morning to move into fourth place but his challenge faltered at midday service when his Impreza refused to fire due to a fuel pump glitch, which returned on the road section heading to stage 16 and forced the young Australian’s early exit. However, his early speed means he is still classified in eighth position overnight.
Briton Harry Hunt said he had been able to accumulate significant experience in his two-wheel-drive Citroen. The 23-year-old Rally Australia rookie is seventh after day two with Coffs Coast resident Nathan Quinn ninth after he won his class on both runs through the Castrol EDGE Super Special Stage this evening.
Team Abu Dhabi’s Bader Al Jabri is 10th although team-mate Majed Al Shamsi dropped out when the engine in his Impreza overheated on the way to the day’s first stage.