10 Sep 2015

Paddon aiming for podium finish in Australia

11:58 am on 10 September 2015

The New Zealand rally driver Hayden Paddon is aiming for a top three finish at this week's FIA World Rally Championship event in Australia.

The New Zealand rally driver Hayden Paddon.

The New Zealand rally driver Hayden Paddon. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Paddon has been promoted to the No.2 WRC car for the Hyundai team because of his knowledge of the Australian event and his preference for gravel.

Paddon has competed in the Coffs Harbour WRC event three times previously, securing a career-best sixth place last year with Hyundai.

He said he had been targetting this event as he knew it well and it was the closest he gets to having a home event nowadays, with the New Zealand Rally's future up in the air.

With the running order determined by championship position for the first two days of the rally, Paddon will start 10th on the road.

The Volkswagen driver Sebastien Ogier can clinch his third WRC Championship in a row with a victory on Sunday over the forestry and farmland roads which make up Rally Australia.

France's Ogier has 207 points in the standings with three races left after Australia.

Ogier could also clinch the 2015 title if he finishes ahead of his Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala of Finland, who is in second place with 114 points.

Andreas Mikkelsen of Norway, who finished third in the Rally of Germany, has 98 points after nine rounds. Volkswagen swept the podium in last month's home race of the German manufacturer.

After a ceremonial start on Thursday night, the rally officially begins on Friday with three new first-day speed tests. The new stages of Utungun, Bakers Creek and Northbank, south of the event's Coffs Harbour base, will be run in the morning and repeated in the afternoon.

The stages are split between the Coffs Coast state forests and open farmland, with many of the country shire roads lined by trees that leave little room for error.

There will be two passes on Saturday through the 51km Nambucca stage, one of the longest and most difficult stages of the season. The 8km Valla stage is also driven twice, the second after dark.

Five more tests north of Coffs Harbour on Sunday complete the rally. The 17 stages cover 311km.

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