WRC star Hayden Paddon has command of Rally New Zealand after a chaotic first day in and around the Raglan area.
The factory Hyundai global star produced a dominant performance despite sweeping the gravel roads clean in the morning loop. Paddon opened up a lead of almost five minutes as showcased his skills on some of the most challenging worlds in the road.
Andrew Hawkeswood holds second place and has one hand on the New Zealand Rally Championship heading into Sunday's six stages. The Aucklander holds a 15.6s advantage in his Mazda AP4 car over title rival Matt Summerfield's Subaru.
Hawkeswood took an 11-point lead in the championship into the event ahead of 2015 winner Ben Hunt with Summerfield a further point back. Hunt had a horror day – he had brake issues during the first pass through the world famous Whaanga Coast stage and dropped over a minute. He shrugged that off and got the car back for the afternoon loop but incredibly suffered three separate punctures on the second run through the tight and twisty Whaanga Coast to ruin any chance he had of a comeback.
The drama started on the opening stage when youngster Max Bayley crashed his Neil Allport Motorsport-run Ford Fiesta R5.
Summerfield had a puncture late on stage two to drop nearly 30 seconds to Hawkeswood while Sloan Cox's Mitsubishi got stuck in first gear. Dylan Turner also suffered a tyre drama in his Audi.
Reigning series champion David Holder was looking good in second place before he popped a tyre off his Holden's rim on the final stage of the morning loop.
Paddon dominated the afternoon stages that had already been run in the morning. It meant he had no loose gravel to sweep aside and took full advantage to open up a phenomenal lead.
After a shocking WRC season Paddon had the bounce back in the step and a smile on his face at the service park at Raglan Airport and he won all six stages on Saturday.
While he made it look easy the day was not a simple procedure for the 30-year-old. The hot and dusty conditions were particularly hard on tyres.
"The roads are like tarmac – it is unbelievable how much gravel has been swept off – and you do have to drive it like tarmac," Paddon said. "You just can't throw the car around. It is actually quite challenging in those conditions."
This is just the second rally that Paddon has contested back home this year so he isn't in title contention.
Hawkeswood is as close as he's ever been in a career that is well into a third decade however. He needs only to remain in front or finish one spot behind Summerfield to claim the title.
Despite a slow start to the day he kept the car straight and drove a smart day to avoid drama.
"We just wanted to dip our toe in the water this morning and see what everyone else was doing and then just go from there," he said.
"We tried our hardest."
Sunday's six stages are located in the Rotorua region.
1. Hayden Paddon (Hyundai)
2. Andrew Hawkeswood (Mazda) +4:58.0s
3. Matt Summerfield (Subaru) +5:13.6s
4. Josh Marston (Holden) +5:43.0s
5. Graham Featherstone (Mitsubishi) +5:53.5s
6. David Holder (Holden) +7:13.6s