A strong opening day for the Hyundai Motorsport team in Kennards Hire Rally Australia 2016 sees their top two drivers split by 1.2 seconds in the fight for third. At the moment Thierry Neuville currently leads the way, ensuring he’s on track to claim second in the championship.
It’s in no way an easy position for the Belgium driver though, with the eleven stages proving tough on the tyres. The Newry stage was shortened from 25.3 to 10.5km due to extreme dust clouds, but this didn’t stop the WRC field with fellow Hyundai driver; Hayden Paddon coming home in fourth. Unfortunately for Neuville, his closest rival; Andreas Mikkelsen ended Day 1 fastest.
“The morning loop went OK.” started Neuville. “Our goal was to keep up with Seb (Ogier), who was starting first on the road – just ahead of us. In those conditions, we could run quite close, better than expected to be honest.
“The afternoon loop went well, and we could set some fast times, which moved us up the classification. Andreas is doing well, and leading the rally, so we know we have to maintain our speed and rhythm in our fight for second in the Championship.”
While the battle continues around them, Paddon will be hoping to end his season on a high, amongst a number of supporters, after recording his best year to date. The Kiwi hardly had it his own way though, after a failed tyre gamble.
“All in all, I’m pretty satisfied with how this opening day has gone.” said Paddon, remaining positive. “The first three stages were to my liking, everything was flowing and the car felt good. The only real disappointment was the fourth stage, which didn’t go to plan. We had a lot of moments, and the balance of the car wasn’t ideal.
“A few half spins lost us some time. We tried something different with the tyres in the first loop with a mix of hard and soft. The afternoon went without any real dramas, and I think we’re well placed for the remainder of the rally. We’re still in the hunt; I’m feeling relaxed and comfortable.”
As for their team-mate Dani Sordo, he finds himself in seventh, some fifty seconds back, after a time penalty for missing the start to SS4.
Day Two has started on the first Nanbucca stage.