EMAIL NEWS FROM HAYDEN PADDON
Well, what a day here in France! Unfortunately we have been unable to finish the day due to an alternator failure which, considering the position and the speed we had and the position in the championship we were fighting for, is gut wrenching.
The day started well, with us winning the first three stages and opening up a lead of 13 seconds. The surprising thing was that it was all happening so easily and there was a lot left in the tank, with places where we could drive a lot faster. Unfortunately, on stage 4 we had a front left puncture, on which we had to drive 5km, losing over 40 seconds and the lead.
Going into midday service I was confident that over the remainder of the rally we could claw back the time lost with our puncture, so rather than going out on full attack to make up the time, we decided just to keep doing what we were doing and let the times come to us.
The first stage of the afternoon went well, winning it by 0.6 seconds, but on the next things started to go wrong. Near the end of the stage the car began to drop power and at the finish we noticed the warning lights for low battery voltage. On the road section we tried everything we could to fix the problem and were able to start the next stage, albeit with a battery indicator showing just 11 volts. During the stage this dropped to about 9 volts and the car was seriously lacking power, with the ECU’s not coping with the low power and instruments starting not to working in the cockpit.
Our time was still surprisingly good and we had recovered back to 2nd PWRC. However, we knew it was going to be difficult to make the final stage and the 100km road section back to service and in the end the car died on the road section between stage 7 and 8. Despite jump starting it many times down a 12km hill and trying to make temporary repairs we could not go any further.
Huge thanks to the team, who had to drive several hours to pick us up and will continue to work into the early hours of the morning to repair and service the car for tomorrow. It is frustrating for the whole team when a component that is not normally an issue with the cars fails and stops us in our tracks.
We will rejoin tomorrow – albeit with 10 minutes of Superally penalties. We will however push on and try to win stages and salvage as many championship points as possible. We are currently 10th in PWRC and to have even a remote shot at the championship in the UK in November, we need to try and recover to at least 5th or 6th, which will be a tall order, but not impossible.
The roads here have been very tricky on what was a generally dry day. A lot of the stages have had a lot of mud and dirt pulled out onto them, which is treacherously slippery on tarmac tyres. Places we are sliding more like we are on gravel and the grip levels are quite inconsistent – more like a mix-surfaced rally than tarmac! It has been very enjoyable though and I am looking forward to tomorrow and having some fun! As they say – it’s not over until the fat lady sings!
Defending Production Car World Rally Champion Armindo Araujo leads the class at the end of the opening day – the Mitsubishi driver enjoying a near-minute gap which belies the close competition which marked the opening day of Rallye de France.
Araujo’s closest competitor on the previous asphalt round of the P-WRC, Hayden Paddon was fastest away from the start this morning. Once again, the rapid Kiwi driver put aside his absence of asphalt experience to turn in an inspired drive on ever-changing conditions.
The New Zealander’s Pirelli Star Driver Mitsubishi was fastest on the first three stages, building a handy 11.4-second lead over Araujo. That advantage went south on the Grand Ballon test, where he suffered a front-right puncture five kilometres before the end of the stage. “There were loads of rocks and mud in the road, the puncture could have come from anything,” said Paddon. “I’d never driven on anything like that before.”
Worse was to come for Paddon who posted further fastest times in the afternoon before retiring from day one with alternator failure at the end of SS7.
Araujo’s hopes of catching Paddon in the early part of the loop were hit by the drier-than-expected weather which meant his softly-suspended Lancer wasn’t offering as much grip as it might through the first four stages.
Araujo’s hopes of rectifying the set-up were hit by the fact that the lunchtime halt was only a remote service in Mulhouse, meaning the mechanics could only work on the car using the parts Araujo was carrying in the car. Going into the final stage of the day, the Portuguese was a little more relieved; Paddon was gone and his nearest rival was now Anders Grondal, who was close to a minute down in his Subaru.
Leader Araujo said: “I’m still not happy with the set-up. That last stage has been really difficult. The last part of that [last] stage was about surviving. I’m happy to be here.”
Grondal repeated those sentiments about the second run through Grand Ballon. His day hadn’t been trouble-free: like fellow Subaru runner Toshi Arai, he lost the brakes for the final seven kilometres of the first run at the 24-kilometre Grand Ballon test.
Ott Tanak was a subdued third in P-WRC, the Pirelli Star Driver still coming to terms with the requirements of driving on asphalt. Despite the tricky conditions, the 22-year-old Estonian emerged unscathed and a wiser man for his efforts.
Arai’s morning had been an interesting one; not only did he lose the brakes on his Impreza, but he was also struggling to hear co-driver Daniel Barritt courtesy of an intercom problem.
Scotsman Dave Weston was fifth at the end of the day, despite some late-in-the-day gearbox trouble in his Subaru. Alex Raschi’s Lancer rounded out Friday’s top six.