MEDIA RELEASE/New Zealand Rally Champs - Photos: Pitstopsam Media Six-time national champion Hayden Paddon has…
2017 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL ROUND
The full story can be read in issue #25 Velocity Motorsport Magazine
The 2017 edition of the Kennards Hire Rally Australia promised an exciting event. The cars were wider and faster than ever before. Throughout the 2017 season the new generation cars set record times. The Destination NSW Special Stage had also been revised to offer a better spectacle for the public and an even greater challenge to the driver, all set against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean.
Whilst the much anticipated world championship decider evaporated when Sebastien Ogier claimed the title at the penultimate round, the battle for second still raged. There were those who saw the event as a last chance for a win and others who used the event as a means to secure a drive for 2018. This was as close to a home rally that Kiwi driver Hayden Paddon could have and a large brace of supporters had flown across the Tasman to support their local hero.
Finally there was the uncertainty over the future of Sebastien Ogier. Rumours circulated that Rally Australia may be the 2017 Champion’s final event as talks of a retirement sifted through the paddock.
2016 Rally Australia winner, Andreas Mikkelsen took control early on day 1. He took advantage of a lower starting position and won all three of the morning stages. By the end of the third 26.68km Sherwood 1 stage, Mikkelsen had opened a 16.3 second lead in his Hyundai.
Mikkelsen’s success was in stark contrast to some of his main rivals.
Ford drivers Sebastien Ogier, Ott Tanak and Elfyn Evans all found some form of issue across the morning. Ogier had the honour of first car out on stage and swept the roads clear of loose gravel for the benefit of those behind. As if this wasn’t enough, Ogier also encountered gear selection problems throughout the day. Tanak lost the rear diffuser on the Sherwood stage and Evans struggled on his DMACK tyres.
The morning proved even more difficult for the Toyota team. Jari-Matti Latvala lost the front spoiler on the first stage of the day and Esapekka Lappi lost the power steering on Stage 2. “I lost the power steering suddenly, no idea why”, Lappi explained to WRC radio. “ There was a hairpin to the right and I couldn’t keep it (the wheel) in my hands. The steering is so stiff”.
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