Perfect Paddon still on top in PWRC
"I thought a 30-second lead would be fantastic, so six minutes is pretty incredible."
Kiwi Hayden Paddon drove another faultless day to dominate Production Car World Rally Championship proceedings on Vodafone Rally de Portugal.
Subaru driver Paddon started the day with a healthy lead over his nearest rival Anders Grondal. Fastest time on the opening test - the 26-kilometre run through Almodovar - was enough for the former Pirelli Star Driver to move more than a minute clear of his Norwegian rival.
That gap mushroomed to almost three minutes on the next test when Grondal suffered a broken cross member which led to a transmission fault leaving his Subaru in three-wheel drive for the second half of the morning.
With the car fixed, Grondal went out in the afternoon to consolidate his second position, only to suffer a big accident on the penultimate stage of the day. His Impreza ended the event more than 40 metres off the road, but Grondal and co-driver Veronica Engan were uninjured.
Having started the day a minute ahead, Paddon ended day two with more than six minutes in hand over second-placed Benito Guerra.
“Before the event, I’d been thinking if we could get to this stage in the lead, that would be great,” said Paddon. “I thought a 30-second lead would be fantastic ahead of what’s looking like a really tough final day, so six minutes is pretty incredible - I certainly didn’t expect that! It’s actually been quite tough today, we’ve been babying around and not taking any risks. We had a bit of a push this morning and managed to bend some parts on the car because the stages were so rough, so I was actually quite glad we didn’t have to go flat out through the afternoon.
“Now I just want to get to the finish, that’s what it’s all about now. We’re working with a few things on the car, just to get us some more experience, but really we just want to get through tomorrow and take the points.”
Mexican Mitsubishi driver Guerra moved up to third place, ahead of Oleksandr Saliuk on the third stage this morning and then moved into a potentially career-best PWRC runner-up spot when Grondal went out.
“I am very happy today,” said Guerra. “It’s been a very good day. We won two places in one stage earlier. It’s been rough in places, but we have been careful, but to be honest this is like a dream!”
Jukka Ketomaki was third at the end of the day, despite his Lancer making some odd noises through the second day of competition.
The man with the most to smile about on Saturday was Martin Semerad. The PWRC title leader switched to the medium compound DMACK - thanks to special dispensation from the FIA - and he rocketed up the leaderboard to an overnight fourth.
“Today has been much better,” said the Czech Republic driver. “We have good grip from the tyres and everything has gone well for us. We’re happy.”
Ukranian Valeriy Gorban’s Mitsubishi is fifth, with Grondal still classified sixth despite his crash.
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