High-flying Kiwi rally driver Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard are leading their category by nearly 25 seconds in the Rally of Portugal.

The Kiwis, the reigning production world champions, are contesting Vodafone Rally de Portugal this weekend as their second round of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship.

Paddon trailed current SWRC category leader Irishman Craig Breen following the opening super special stage in the streets of Portugal's capital Lisbon, but moved in front on the first all-gravel night stage.

Driving a Skoda Fabia S2000 Paddon's advantage over Breen is 24.6s going into tomorrow's six stages.


"We have had a good start to the rally here in Portugal after tonight's four stages," said Paddon from the service park at the Algarve stadium in the south of Portugal. "We are currently leading SWRC by 25 seconds and are ninth overall."

"We did take a gamble with tyres tonight, choosing to take the soft compound tyres for the shorter, night stages with rain forecasted.

However, the conditions were dryer than we expected, and after damaging our tyres in the opening tarmac super special stage in Lisbon, we had two badly-worn tyres on the rear, and good tyres on the front. We did lose some time with the tyres moving around a lot but it wasn't too bad and the times were still good."

Paddon and Kennard tackle new stages on Friday, local time.

"These will certainly be challenging as they are more technical and rougher than stages which are typically used in Rally Portugal. The weather will also play a part tomorrow as showers have been falling tonight which will make tyre decisions crucial."

The following day, the Kiwis face stages with a format unchanged from 2011 - the same three stages are run twice. Then on Sunday there are six further stages with the final test, the power stage, sure to attract thousands of enthusiastic Portuguese fans.