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Paddon storms through Aussie WRC dust

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 18/11/2016 Scott Bailey

New Zealander Hayden Paddon has staked his claim for the World Rally Championship's season-ending Australian event, jumping from fourth to second on Saturday morning.

Paddon's Hyundai was inundated by dust on the opening corner of the morning, but still managed to take 10.2 seconds off leader Andreas Mikkelsen in the 50km Nambucca stage.

The drive propelled him into contention, and he is now 13.6 seconds behind Mikkelsen with 14 of 23 stages complete on the NSW north coast.

"Easy to get distracted by the amount of dust," Paddon said.

"I just tried to drive the stage the best I could.

"Must be damage underneath the car somewhere - it felt as if the rear door was open."

Paddon can still take second in the championship if he wins in Australia and results fall in his favour.

He could also make up more time when the rally returns to the same route in Nambucca on Saturday afternoon.

His drive dropped world champion Sebastien Ogier back to third and three seconds behind Paddon, while Thierry Neuville - second in the championship - is now fourth and 39.98 seconds off the pace.

Neuville need only finish on the podium on Sunday to wrap up the runners-up spot in the drivers' championship, but struggled with visibility on Saturday morning as his race hopes disappeared.

"I lost five-six seconds in the dust," he said.

Meanwhile Volkswagen picked up their ninth stage win of the weekend when Jari-Matti Latvala claimed the 13th stage by 7.8 seconds.

However his weekend was ruined when he broke his suspension on the opening stage on Friday when he hit a bridge, and he remains more than seven minutes off the pace.

Volkswagen can claim their fourth consecutive drivers' championship one-two finish in their final rally race before leaving the sport if Mikkelsen finishes in the top two and results fall their way.

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