New Zealand rally driver Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard are in third place after the second day of racing at the Rally Australia.
Paddon's third place is exactly ten seconds away from four-time world champion Sebastien Ogier in second, who is in turn just two seconds off rally leader Andreas Mikkelsen. Just five stages and 57.18 competitive kilometers of the final round of this year's FIA World Rally Championship remain to run on Sunday (Australian time).
Paddon said Saturday's mix of rural shire roads and spectator-friendly super special stages run south of Coffs Harbour, New South Wales in hot conditions, weren't bad.
"Obviously this morning's been good," he said, having won Saturday morning's opening 50.8km test in his Hyundai i20 world rally car and jumped from fourth on the overall standings after Friday's 11-stage itinerary into second place behind Mikkelsen.
"Today was the day we were always targeting to have a bit of a push to climb the leader-board and close the gap to the leader. It's only half the job; the big part of the job is we're trying to do the same this afternoon. It's going to be a lot hotter, a lot harder on tyres and last year we made a mistake in the same situation so hopefully we've learned from that and continue the momentum forward."
Looking at the afternoon's performance where he could only manage sixth fastest through the 50.8km Nambucca stage, Paddon commented on tyre wear as the thermometer climbed above 35˚C, which made tyre management an issue for all drivers. "My tyre management is better than before but still there's more to do."
Of the day overall, he said: "This afternoon we missed a little bit of speed, but think we can be happy we made a good improvement over last year. It's a good fight upfront, there's only 10 seconds [to Sebastian Ogier in second] so we're in a position now where we're going to push very hard tomorrow and see what we can do."
The Saturday morning stage win added to another stage victory on Friday morning brings Paddon's career WRC stage win total to 17.
Sunday's final leg heads north of Coffs Harbour for the first time. Drivers tackle four tests before the rally-closing live TV Power Stage, with bonus points for the fastest three drivers. The five stages cover 57.18km.