11 Feb 2017

Paddon starts slowly in Sweden

7:52 am on 11 February 2017

The New Zealand driver Hayden Paddon is in sixth place at the end of the first day of action at the WRC Rally of Sweden.

Hayden Paddon gets some air at WRC Sweden

Hayden Paddon gets some air at WRC Sweden Photo: Timo Anis

While there's been all kinds of action on the snowy stages among their fellow competitors, for Paddon and co-driver John Kennard, their focus has been on their own game, their own confidence, as they tackle full-speed WRC competition for the first time since crashing and retiring on the first day in Monte Carlo in January.

At the end of the day's seven special stages which took competitors over the border into Norway, Paddon said: "A tough day, we expected there to be some challenges this morning, I certainly underestimated the mental challenge of getting back in car in competition and everything really felt abnormal on the morning loop."

"I sat with my engineer Rui at lunch and we made some changes to the car to make it easier to drive, not necessarily changes to make it faster, just to get some confidence back in."

"The afternoon was certainly a big step in the right direction. Things don't quite feel 100% yet, we're working on it piece by piece, but the feeling's starting to come back and we're starting to enjoy it this afternoon."

"Gives us something really good to build on going into tomorrow. I think we can start our season proper tomorrow. I'll get in the car with a lot more confidence with a setup that's working and try to get a bit of momentum on our way."

Their stage times highlighted the changes going on in the car - from the morning's ninth and 11th fastest times to the afternoon's second and third quickest times.

Paddon's Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville leads the way from Jari-Matti Latvala in a Toyota, while Paddon is a minute and 17 seconds from the leader.

Championship leader, the Frenchman Sebastien Ogier in a Ford is in fifth place.