Paddon leads home Hunt and Gilmour on Saturday
Defending Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally champion Hayden Paddon has claimed day one honours at the Otago Rally despite a couple of dramas in his Hyundai New Zealand i20 AP4.
Paddon overcame a driveshaft issue early in the day and survived a late scare in the final stage of the day when one of his tyres delaminated and he had to back it off significantly.
He holds a lead of three minutes and five seconds over two-time national champion Ben Hunt in the brand-new Skoda New Zealand Fabia R5.
Hunt dropped time earlier in the day when he was slowed by hanging dust but he did enough to pip Dunedin local Emma Gilmour for second on the final stage.
Gilmour had an encouraging day, showing good pace and her Vantage Suzuki didn’t miss a beat over the day’s eight stages.
Raana Horan enjoyed a solid day in fourth in his Generator Rental Services Skoda Fabia R5 while youngster Ari Pettigrew took a superb fifth in his debut drive in the Holden Barina AP4.
Robbie Stokes (Ford) battled a broken drive axel for three stages but finished the day in sixth with Todd Bawden (Ford) in seventh, Dylan Turner (Audi) eighth, Mike Young (Subaru) ninth and Glenn Inkster 10th in the Force Motorsport Mazda.
Brent Taylor had a great day to be first overall 2WD and first in the Open 2WD class in his Toyota FT86, edging Dylan Thomson in the Ford Fiesta by close to a minute and John Silcock in his Mazda RX7.
Thomson was the quickest of the NZRC Group N 2WD competitors.
Jeff Ward put in arguably the drive of the day in his ex-Richard Mason Subaru to win the one-day Rally Challenge class and be 11th overall.
Dave Sievers finished second in his Subaru, while Brynley Smith was third in his Mitsubishi.
Jonty Brennsell took out the Rally Challenge 2WD class in his Toyota Starlet, ahead of Dave Taylor (Honda Civic) and Jono Shapley (Toyota Vitz).
In the Group A Challenge, Chris Lockyear capped a great drive to take his first NZRC win while Simon Bell battled through mechanical gremlins to earn second his Subaru Legacy ahead of Mark Pedersen in a Subaru Impreza.
A further eight special stages await competitors on Sunday, which takes the field south of Dunedin.