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Paddon leads Rally Argentina

NZN 24/04/2016

New Zealand driver Hayden Paddon is poised for his first world rally championship win, holding a 30-second lead after three days of Rally Argentina.

Paddon leads the four-day event from Sebastien Ogier with only three stages and less than 60km of gravel speed tests remaining.

Paddon and co-driver John Kennard hit the front when rally leader Jari-Matti Latvala crashed on special stage 14.

Latvala held a 14.5sec advantage in his Volkswagen Polo R going into the penultimate stage on Sunday (NZT), and was almost seven seconds quicker midway through when he crashed heavily and retired.

Paddon started day three in third place, 11.4sec behind Latvala, then slashed the Finn's lead to 6.7sec after winning the day's first two stages in his Hyundai i20.

On the 19.71km opening stage of the day, Paddon blitzed his rivals with a record-making stage time of 9min 58.3sec, the only driver to break 10 minutes.

"The feeling in the car was very good, particularly in the fast sections, although we lost a little bit too much in the last technical stage this morning," Paddon said.

Latvala responded with two wins of his own to open the biggest margin of the weekend, but a front-suspension failure forced him out after 21km of the repeat 38km stage from Los Gigantes.

Paddon was pleased with the day's driving, but wasn't about to get too carried away.

"It's very unfortunate what happened to Jari with his accident, but we were close enough to put on the pressure and pick up the pieces," he said.

"There's still a long way to go with very tough stages.

"A 30sec lead over a three-time world champion on some of the toughest stages in the championship is not a big gap."

The final stages of the rally comprise three stages on the rock-strewn roads of the Traslasierra mountains, with cooler temperatures and rain forecast.

Two passes of El Condor-Copina sandwich the longer Mina Clavero-Giulio Cesare, with bonus points to the fastest three drivers in the final power stage.

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