Hayden Paddon slashed Sébastien Ogier’s lead to just 8.8sec after a superb drive through the Vargåsen winter wonderland that left the triple world champion looking anxiously over his shoulder.With up to 10cm of snow in places, Paddon took full advantage of his lower start position to rocket over the forest tracks 23.6sec quicker than the road-opening Frenchman and create a genuine battle for victory in this second round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
While Ogier swept the fresh snow off the road in his Volkswagen Polo R, Paddon enjoyed a cleaner and faster line further back but the Hyundai i20 pilot was playing down his victory chances at the finish.
“I think this stage helped us,” he said. “We didn’t have an advantage in the first stage but it cleaned for us here. Ogier isn’t the target, but we want to build a buffer to those behind us.”
Ogier was 11th fastest. “It’s not the same story as earlier. I’m very happy with my stage but this one was different. Obviously we didn’t expect to lose that much time,” he said.
Fourth for Mads Østberg propelled him back into third place in his Ford Fiesta RS, relegating fellow Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen to fourth and he is now 10.0sec to the good. Ott Tänak and Dani Sordo complete the top six on the leaderboard.
The stage continued to get cleaner and faster and yesterday’s retirees, Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke, took advantage. Latvala topped the times by 9.5sec from Meeke, with Paddon third.