WRC star Hayden Paddon smashed stage records to take control of Rally Otago yesterday.

The factory Hyundai star opened his domestic campaign with a dominant performance as he opened up a huge lead of nearly five minutes across the day's nine special stages.

He ran wide on the infamous Kuri Bush stage late in the day, which put minor damage in his car's steering but managed to get through the remaining two stages without further incident.

"It has been a good one today," Paddon told the Herald on Sunday. "The car has been going well. I just had that small little moment in Kuri Bush there which buggered the car up for the last couple of stages.

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"It is going really well. Compared to the same car we had two years ago, it is handling so well. A good clean day so hopefully the same tomorrow."

Paddon will continue to push hard today. He is using the domestic championship to maintain his seat-time ahead of his return to the WRC at Rally Portugal next month.

"We are just doing our own thing and that has been the same since the first stage," the 30-year-old said. "There are stage records out there; I have personal goals as well. I just want to keep pushing and build things up for when I go back overseas."

Subaru driver Ben Hunt made a superb recovery from an early 50-second time penalty to hold second place overnight — making up the lost time and opening up a 38.5s gap to third-placed Matt Summerfield.

The 2015 champion was particularly aggressive after getting a penalty for checking in late to stage three.

"It gave us something to fight back for," Hunt said. "I love chasing people down. I had a ball out there. The car is handling fantastic and everything is going good.

"Once we fine-tune some of these little starting problems we will be away.

"We will just go out there like we did today, not take any risks or anything."

Summerfield, who is debuting his new-style Mitsubishi Mirage, struggled for pace early in the day before finding a better rhythm later. He managed to best Emma Gilmour to hold third overall.