Motorsport: Paddon looking forward to 'motorway on gravel'

By Kris Shannon

Hayden Paddon and John Kennard in action during shakedown for Rally Portugal. Photo / Honza Fronek
Hayden Paddon and John Kennard in action during shakedown for Rally Portugal. Photo / Honza Fronek

After snow in Sweden and a patchy performance in Portugal, Hayden Paddon can't wait to race on "the best roads in the world" when Rally New Zealand begins next week.

The Kiwi driver will be racing the the Super 2000 class of the World Rally Championship when the event gets underway on roads around Whangarei, Kaipara, Rodney, Franklin and Raglan on June 21.

Along with co-driver John Kennard, Paddon heads a five-strong field in the category - a step below the main event - and Paddon said the date of the rally has been circled on his calendar for some time.

"I just can't wait to get out on the stages to be honest," he said. "Rally New Zealand is definitely one of my favourite events and I have been really looking forward to doing it again."

Paddon has raced in New Zealand three times before and, aside from some home comforts and hometown support, there was an obvious explanation for his anticipation.

"There's no doubt, and most drivers will say the same thing, they are the best roads in the world," Paddon said. "The roads are basically like a motorway on gravel. In comparison to a lot of other rallies we do, they're just so smooth here.

"You don't have to worry about braking the car, it's just 110 per cent driving. I'm really looking forward to it and it's good to be on roads that we actually know for a change."

It all makes a big change from the first two events the Kiwi has raced this season. Paddon finished fourth in Sweden after facing roads covered with snow and ice for the first time of his career, before claiming a "lucky" victory after being forced to recover from an early retirement in Portugal.

In comparison, the roads in New Zealand sound relatively sedate but Paddon said they weren't without their pitfalls.

"A lot of it's about corner speed. You've really got to carry the speed in. Probably the biggest thing here is, a lot of roads have a lot of camber and you really have to utilise that camber to get more corner speed.

"But there's a fine line - if you push it too hard you can jump over the other side of the camber, and that's when things go wrong. It's really just about trying to carry as much corner speed as you can and not sliding the car too much."

If he can navigate that fine line, Paddon will go a long way towards reaching his goal for the event. A win in the S-WRC class would see the 25-year-old take the overall lead in the championship, and Paddon said it was the perfect venue in which to assume the advantage.

"Nothing beats winning at home. Success in front of a home crowd is particularly special as we have a lot of fan support this year."

But Paddon was also aiming for loftier goals, given his desire to reach the pinnacle of the sport and race in the World Rally Championship sooner rather than later.

"The big picture is, we'd like to try and aim for the top 10 overall among the World Rally cars. I think it's realistic but we're just going to have to have a good rally from start to finish."

- APNZ

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