Motorsport: Paddon recoups for Wales Rally

By Eric Thompson

Kiwi team aims for full points after 'unlucky' engine failure in Finland pushed them back to second place.

Hayden Paddon and John Kennard recorded a DNF at Finland's Neste Oil Rally. Photo / Honza Fronek
Hayden Paddon and John Kennard recorded a DNF at Finland's Neste Oil Rally. Photo / Honza Fronek

New Zealand's only world rally champion Hayden Paddon dusts off his S2000 car this weekend for round four of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Wales Rally GB.

Paddon's move up to the S2000 class from his world championship winning year in the production car was, up until the last round in Finland, tracking rather nicely with the Kiwi leading the title race.

Having moved to a new S2000 team for Finland, Paddon looked odds on to extend his series lead, but an engine valve failure meant Paddon and co-driver John Kennard were forced out of the event, gaining no points.

Paddon's DNF dropped the Kiwi rally team to second in the championship, six points behind PG Andersson with Maciej Oleksowicz a further nine points back.

"We will, quite literally, be firing on all four cylinders now the car's fixed," said Paddon. "That mechanical failure was a little unlucky as it's a very rare thing to ever go wrong with these cars.

"Our preparations have gone well this week and we're really looking forward to getting into the rally. After arriving in Wales on Monday we have had two days of recce to get our pace notes sorted for the rally.

"We have notes for about half the stages while the other stages are similar to what we have done in the past but just in a different configuration."

The rally has been moved back in the year, and thanks to the warmer weather the roads are in pretty good condition with a hard base providing grip even if it rains during the event.

"The rain is draining off the roads really well and they are in the best condition I've ever seen them in. Almost as good as the roads in New Zealand - smooth, flowing and fast and I'm really looking forward to driving on them.

"The high grip level may cause a bit extra tyre wear but we should be all right," said Paddon.

As it seems to be with most New Zealanders racing at the elite level overseas, money is the ball-and-chain that tends to hold the racer back from planning ahead.

Paddon and his team have struggled to find funding for the campaign and he has had to do his best on a race-to-race basis. As a result, he has not been able to do any independent testing in the run-up to the event, but doesn't seem overly bothered.

All Paddon wants to do is get behind the wheel and go for it.

"We haven't been able to do an independent test before this event due to budget constraints so it's straight into the rally, but that's not really an issue. John and I have done this event three times and it's one that I enjoy.

"We didn't get much time in the car in Finland but we have managed to give the team some feedback to make the car a bit faster.

"Also BRR [new team] has had some good experience of this event and a good base set-up on the Skoda," said Paddon.

The flying Kiwi was hoping to compare his pace with the Volkswagen Motorsport pairing of Sebastien Ogier and Kevin Abbring, who drive similar Skoda Fabia S2000s as part of VW's WRC pre-championship programme.

Although these two are not a threat to Paddon, as they are not part of the championship, they're a great benchmark for the two Kiwis as to how fast they can go.

"There is still a long way to go in the championship. Maximum points in the championship are the only option if we want to be in a good position for the final two events.

"However, the focus for this rally is to match the pace of Sebastien Ogier. This is our last gravel event of the year and we have yet to show the speed we want," said Paddon.

There are seven competitors registered for SWRC points and 12 competitors driving S2000-spec cars.

- NZ Herald

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