A damaged suspension, burned hand and dust that filled his rally car added up to a challenging day for Hayden Paddon at the Mexico Rally yesterday but the Kiwi driver was still fifth after the first full day of racing.
Paddon was 2mins 20.8secs behind leader Jari-Matti Latvala of Finland who held a significant 32.1-second advantage over Frenchman Sebastien Ogier. Spain's Dani Sordo (1:15.6) and Norway's Andreas Mikkelsen (1:46.7) were third and fourth respectively.
Paddon came into the Mexican rally on the back of an impressive second-placed finish in last month's Rally Sweden but immediately found himself struggling after opting for Michelin's hard compound tyres in the morning stages, a decision he regretted. He wasn't the only one, with sixth-placed Mads Østberg labelling the decision as "one of the biggest tyre mistakes I've done".
There was more trouble in store for Paddon.
He damaged his Hyundai i20's suspension after swiping a wall and then burned his hand while making repairs. He also slid into a ditch after his car mysteriously filled with dust in the final mountain stage.
"I don't know what happened but a third of the way through the car just filled with dust," he said. "We couldn't see much and went off into a ditch. I'm glad to be here.
"This morning the info was that the hard tyre would be the right choice, but that wasn't the case. It's been challenging, but now we have more experience."
Latvala won all four longer stages on the gravel, taking advantage of starting in eighth and confronting roads that had been swept clean by the starters ahead of him. Ogier, in comparison, endured the worst of the conditions by running first through the dusty mountain stages and faces a big task to preserve his winning start to the new WRC season.
Drivers will tackle six stages on gravel in the mountains north and east of León tomorrow before two short stages at the city's motor racing circuit and a night test next to the service park. They will cover 152.40km in total.
Paddon went into the event fourth overall.