Hayden Paddon has opened a commanding lead on the opening day of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, powering his Hyundai i20 to a lead of more than four minutes over his protege, David Holder.
Starting first on the road, Paddon steered clear of hanging dust to take a full minute out of his rivals, led by the new Subaru of Ben Hunt. He then carried on to win each of the seven gravel stages across the day.
Behind Paddon, Holder and Hunt battled across the day for the runner up spot while there was a similar battle for fourth and fifth between Lance Williams and Phil Campbell, which went in Williams favour.
Outside of the top five, there were encouraging performances from Andrew Hawkeswood, Richard Baddock, Emma Gilmour and Glenn Inkster before each struck trouble, although outside of Inkster all would reach the finish.
The open two wheel drive field was headed home by Dave Strong in his Honda Civic, only 1.9 seconds ahead of Anthony Jones' Ford Escort, with rookie Jack Williamson third and Dylan Thompson rounded out the field.
The classic field saw Regan Ross (Ford Escort) take an early lead when Marcus van Klink's Mazda spun, while Tony Gosling rounded out the podium spots in his Escort. Jeff Judd overcame intercom problems to sit fourth, while John Silcock's rally ended when his Mazda's gearbox failed.
The Gull Rally Challenge, contested over the first day, saw Richard Bateman take a comfortable victory ahead of Daniel Walker and Jono Shapley. Shapley was also the winner of the Gull Rally Scholarship, which sees him taking home a drum of Gull E85 liquid performance fuel. The top two-wheel car in the Gull Rally Challenge was Greg Murphy in his Vauxhall Chevette.
The action continues on Sunday with a further 142.64 kilometres of special stages before the finish at the Dunedin Railway station from 3.25pm.