Hayden Paddon set fastest time in the opening stage of the Estonian ERC rally – “I was rubbish on all super special stages”

New Zealander Hayden Paddon set the fastest time in the opening stage of the Estonian ERC rally.
Hayden Paddon. Photo: @World / Red Bull Content Pool
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Paddon was 0.8 seconds quicker than the next fastest driver, Ford’s Jon Armstrong, on the short super special stage. The defending European champion and current series leader had a group of fans who travelled from the other side of the world to support him, which was heartwarming.

“In the WRC I was rubbish on all super special stages, if only I knew this 10 years ago! (The support is) awesome, even though I may be getting older and greyer, the people that have come and supported us here from the other side of the world is a big deal,” Paddon enthused.

“It didn’t feel particularly good, it was a bit slippery and could’ve been cleaner in there but good start. We need to keep it up,” Armstrong commented.

Romanian Simone Tempestini was third fastest on the super special, 0.9 seconds behind Paddon in his Škoda.

“It felt good. It was nice. At the beginning I made a little mistake. I expected a bit more grip, there are a lot more cars in front. I think the road has to be a lot cleaner. An okay stage, a really slow one, we will have to see for tomorrow,” Tempestini said.

Citroën driver Mads Østberg was fourth on the Tartu stage, ahead of Mikko Heikkilä. The Finn complained of a problem with the gear lever. The next service for the drivers is only after the first two special stages on Saturday morning.

“We faced a familiar issue on the opening stage as the mounting of gear lever came off and we’re stuck on 2nd gear. Let’s see if we can fix it by ourselves as there’s no service tonight,” Heikkilä lamented.

Also in the top eight on the stage were Miko Marczyk, Nikolay Gryazin, and Andrea Mabellini. Frenchman Mathieu Franceschi, who shares the lead in the ERC standings with Paddon, was ninth, 2.5 seconds behind the New Zealander.

The Estonian ERC rally continues on Saturday with nine special stages. The rally concludes on Sunday.

Standings in the Estonian ERC rally after SS1/14:

1.Hayden PaddonHyundai1:31.1
2. Jon ArmstrongFord+0.8
3.Simone TempestiniSkoda+0.9
4. Mads ØstbergCitroen+1.6
5. Mikko HeikkiläToyota +1.7
6.Miko MarczykSkoda+1.9
7.Nikolay GryazinCitroen+2.0
8. Andrea MabelliniSkoda+2.2
9.Mathieu FranceschiSkoda+2.5
9.Robert VirvesSkoda+2.5
9.Yuki YamamotoToyota+2.5
12.Georg LinnamäeToyota+3.0
13.Martins SesksToyota+3.1
14.Teemu AsunmaaSkoda+3.4
15.Benjamin KorholaHyundai+3.8

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