Motorsport: Mechanical problems plague Paddon in Wales

Hayden Paddon and John Kennard tackle a water splash on day one of Wales Rally GB. Photo / Honza Fronek
Hayden Paddon and John Kennard tackle a water splash on day one of Wales Rally GB. Photo / Honza Fronek

Kiwi rallying high flyers Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard had a solid start on day one of Wales Rally GB - but electrical and gearbox issues saw the pair retire partway through the day and prepare to restart on Saturday, local time.

Paddon started day one of Wales Rally GB second of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship competitors behind category leading Swede Per-Gunnar Andersson.

The Kiwi was seeded 18th on the road after the 15 World Rally Championship cars and the two Volkswagen Motorsport competitors, Sébastien Ogier and Kevin Abbring, who drive similar Skoda Fabia S2000s.

Stage one and Paddon and Kennard were quickest among the SWRC competitors and 14th fastest overall setting a sharp pace for the 20.48 km stage. They were 4.4 seconds quicker than Andersson and just 0.8 seconds behind Ogier in 13th overall.

"The day started well; it was good run and it was good to get the first stage out of the way after a long period out of the car," said Paddon.

Things started to go wrong on stage two when the Skoda lost all power with an ignition problem.

"An electrical fault stopped the car in a similar fashion to what happened in Portugal earlier in the year.

After going through all the systems and resetting everything, we got the car fired again, losing 14 minutes. With championship leader, P-G Andersson out on the same stage, it was vital to continue to pick up the points."

Irishman Craig Breen took over the SWRC lead after Andersson had a puncture and completed the stage with a broken wheel which also forced him to retire.

Paddon fought back on stage three with the second-quickest SWRC time, 1.6 seconds off Breen, and 14th quickest overall ahead of several WRC cars, but second gear in the Skoda's gearbox was gone.

At the end of the stage, he said: "What does a guy have to do to catch a break? We know what the issues are with the gearbox and we'll try and sort them this afternoon.

"Then before stage four the electrical problem from stage two re-occurred. This time we could not found a solution, and that was it for the day.

An understandably disappointed Paddon said: "At least this time, unlike Finland, we can re-join the rally, and we will be back tomorrow with just one target - to try and beat Sébastien Ogier on some stages. If we can do that, then not all is completely lost for the weekend and with the championship leader also rejoining tomorrow, we may not lose many, if any, points to the championship lead."

The re-start rules means Paddon and Kennard were given stage times for the remainder of Friday's six stages calculated by adding five minutes to the category winner's time.

Breen holds the category lead after day one with an advantage of 40.9s over Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi. Welshman Tom Cave, who partners Andersson in the factory Proton Motorsports team, is third.

Day two of Wales Rally GB continues from the rally's base in Cardiff and runs over military and forest roads before heading south for the final stage of the day at Celtic Manor, near Newport. Sunday sees another repeated loop of three stages west of Cardiff.

After the event, Paddon remains in the UK for the two final events of the 2012 FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship season - France in October and Spain in November.

- nzherald.co.nz

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