Hayden Paddon has praised the 2016-spec Hyundai i20 WRC after his competitive debut in the car in Rally Sweden, pointing out that he was on occasion able to match champion Sebastien Ogier on pace.
The Kiwi driver emerged as Ogier's closest rival during the event to finish second, equalling his WRC career-best finish - and said the car played the main role in the achievement.
"Probably the car is [reason] number one, but the road position played a big part as well, I think it's a combination," Paddon told Motorsport.com.
"The satisfying thing for us was that, on some stages, there was no advantage with the road position - and we were still able to set times similar to Ogier on two or three stages.
"The speed of the car was good, we can still work on it a lot more."
Unexpected podium finish
Sweden marked Paddon's first rally in the new i20 as the two 2016-spec cars available in time for Monte Carlo were used by teammates Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo.
Paddon was subsequently the only Hyundai factory driver to avoid major mechanical issues in Sweden and ended up scoring the new i20's second podium from two rounds.
"I'm definitely surprised [at coming second] considering the rally was only a top five," added the Kiwi, who is now the top Hyundai driver in the standings.
"The snow is not something I'm overly comfortable with yet, snow rallies are still a little bit new to me."
No drama after Power Stage incident
Having started the the Power Stage half a minute behind Ogier, Paddon insisted he was not attempting a late challenge for victory.
Still, he damaged the radiator by clipping a pole during the run - an incident that could have potentially cost him second place by preventing him from making it back to the service park.
"Initially when we stopped at the stop control I was a little bit concerned to see the amount of smoke coming out of the car," Paddon recalled.
"We opened the bonnet to assess the issue and the hole we found on the radiator was quite small - we knew it was gonna be okay after that, so we had no problems."
"Right decisions made" with conditions
Paddon also praised the job the FIA and the organisers had done to ensure Rally Sweden was held, despite high temperatures threatening the cancellation of the event.
"I think the rally was actually quite good, we were really lucky with all the cold temperatures and snow on Friday and that’s helped improve the stages a lot," he said.
"[It was] certainly not to the normal standard, there was a lot less snow than normal but there was enough so it was an okay winter rally.
"Safety wasn’t an issue this weekend, the FIA did a good job making sure we had a range of stages that were appropriate to run.
"If there was no snow and we’d had to run on gravel, then I have no doubt the FIA would have cancelled it. The right decisions were made.
"To run 70 percent of the rally, considering it was nearly cancelled, was good, the organisers did a good job."