Atkinson heads the field at Whangarei

Chris Atkinson in front at Rally Whangarei

Australia’s Chris Atkinson leads the way at the end of the opening day of the International Rally of Whangarei (NZ); the third round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship.

The Proton factory driver heads World Production Car championship contender Hayden Paddon by just 6.2-seconds, with Satria team-mate Alister McRae another 33 seconds back in third.

With Paddon (Subaru Impreza WRX) being a force on this event over the past few years, Atkinson had to dig deep throughout the opening eight stages.

“Pretty good day today,” said Atkinson.

“It is great to be leading over a quick NZ driver in Hayden Paddon on an event that he has dominated at in the past.

“It will be tough to keep him behind tomorrow, but APRC points are the priority!”

Fellow Aussie Brendan Reeves sits in ninth place after a challenging day that included a puncture driving Paddon’s older Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX.

Nathan Quinn was well inside the top-10, but spins and other issues dropped him to 25th at the end of the day.

Tomorrow’s final leg includes another eight stages.

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