Motorsport: Champ mentors young driver

By Colin Smith

When Mt Maunganui's David Holder uploaded his rally driving footage on YouTube it prompted a little more than a few "likes" and positive comments.

One of the viewers was New Zealand's 2011 Production World Rally Champion Hayden Paddon and what he saw has led to a mentoring arrangement with the Kiwi competing one-rung below the top level of world rallying advising the 23-year-old who has still only competed in 10 rallies.

Back in New Zealand for a short visit during a break in his Super 2000 WRC campaign, Paddon was in Tauranga last weekend for some one-on-one time with Holder, who this week will compete in the final round of the New Zealand Rally Championship at Gisborne.

"We've spent some time talking about event planning, budgets and pace notes," said Paddon. "David's going to drive a new car for the first time this weekend so we aren't making any big changes to his pace note system at the moment."

Paddon says the idea of mentoring another driver hadn't crossed his mind until he was checking out YouTube to keep in touch with the local rally scene.

"I found David's in-car [camera footage] from Whangarei and it caught my attention. He was smooth and fast," said Paddon.

"So I did some more research and looked through the stage times and I was even more impressed."

Holder was driving a 1600cc front-wheel-drive Toyota Corolla and achieving stage times to match many of the four-wheel-drive turbocharged cars.

In the lead-up to Rally New Zealand in June, the idea of mentoring an up-and-coming driver was first floated by Paddon's partner Katie Lane.

"She came up with the idea of doing something like this. The more I thought about it I realised how much I had enjoyed helping some of the Mitsubishi drivers with suspension set-up and diff programmes in the year I didn't do the NZ Championship (2010)," said Paddon.

Paddon says Holder's talent, limited experience and desire to progress in the sport made him an obvious choice.

"The mentoring programme is separate to Hayden Paddon Rallysport Global [the company set-up to support Paddon's career]. There's no money to help David but I can offer him some time and my experience," said Paddon.

Paddon will return to Europe soon with plenty of confidence for the last three rallies of his Super2000 WRC programme.

He's switched teams, with BRR from Austria now preparing a Skoda Fabia S2000 car after running with a Spanish team in the first four events.

While the first outing in the new car in Finland ended with engine problems after five stages, the pace Paddon showed allowed him to challenge French star Sebastien Ogier - a seven-time winner in the WRC while team-mate to Sebastien Loeb at Citroen - driving another Skoda Fabia.

"The new team has made a world of difference," said Paddon.

"I've got more confidence in a car which is driveable, where I was fighting the other car all the time.

"With the car we had in Finland I believe a top-eight would have been achievable in New Zealand (Paddon finished 12th in Rally New Zealand)."

Paddon says to progress in the sport and catch the eye of team managers it's now just as important for him to show a fully competitive pace as it is to score points and win the S-WRC crown.

"The next goal is to string one really good rally together this year. In GB (Rally Great Britain in mid-September) the goal is to challenge Ogier and then to show good pace in the last two tarmac events (France and Spain)."

For Holder the next challenge is more immediate, with Rally Gisborne this weekend, where he is driving the Group N Ford Fiesta ST belonging to Stadium Cars in Christchurch for the first time.

Roads to the west of Gisborne provide seven special stages on Saturday with the route heading north to Tolaga Bay and Tokomaru Bay on Sunday with five more stages.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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