Motorsport: Hayden hopes to give PG tips in France

By Eric Thompson

New Zealand's only world rally champion, Hayden Paddon, heads into the penultimate round of the 2012 FIA WRC S2000 series trailing championship leader PG Andersson by eight points.

Not much you may think, but he has Craig Breen (on the same points) and Maciej Oleksowicz (three points back) hot on his tail.

Paddon, the reigning Production World Rally Championship title-holder, led the S2000 field heading into Rally Finland but suffered mechanical problems and gathered no points.

His misfortune continued at the next round at Wales Rally GB, where again the mechanical gremlins raised their heads and he was unable to grab enough points to reassert himself at the top of the point's table.

This weekend at Rally France is a clean slate for Paddon, co-driver John Kennard and their team and they are looking forward to returning to the top of the table.

Paddon and Kennard had a successful hit-out in their Skoda Fabia S2000 car during testing before the rally and are looking forward to the all-tarmac event.

"I've never been a huge believer in luck but it's got to the point we may just need a little bit this weekend," said Paddon.

"I would be lying if I said that the results this year hadn't taken a bit of a toll mentally, but it is a matter of putting them behind us and focusing on a new challenge. Providing everything holds together we should have a good run."

Paddon moved teams mid-season to the Austrian outfit of Baumschlager Rallye & Racing (BRR) and hopes they can overcome the niggling problems that have thwarted the new pairing in the last two rounds.

"The previous two events have been more a case of a couple of really unfortunate failures. In all other respects the car is really good. We'll be using the same as we did in Finland and it recently did a rally in Austria where it went really well and it's the same car we tested in Austria. It's been fully rebuilt for this rally and it's all looking good."

Paddon and Kennard managed to get a good 50km in asphalt testing, which is a bonus as they've spent most of the season so far on gravel and snow.

"The Skoda felt amazing on tarmac, almost like a go-kart. I was able to get to grips with it very quickly in tricky wet conditions, and the team were really happy with our speed.

"We were also working a little with Herman Gassner Junior, who is also running a BRR Skoda in France, so it's good to bounce ideas off another driver," said Paddon.

"I did learn that I can be more aggressive with the car and try and stay in the higher revs more."

This will be Paddon's second visit to the roads of Alsace. He last drove there in a Group N production-spec Mitsubishi as a Pirelli Star Driver.

" I think our smooth driving style will suit driving on tarmac and should naturally suit my style.

"When you're in the car it doesn't feel too different. You just have to get in it and drive fast and try not to fight it too much," he said.

Paddon needs a good result, if not a class win, this weekend to ensure he's in a good position going in to the last round in Spain, on November 8-11. However, he's going to have his work cut out, as Andersson and Breen won't let him have it all his own way.

"Craig and PG will be quick everywhere and they both have a lot more experience on tarmac than us. I have only done three tarmac rallies before, with the last almost 12 months ago.

"In saying that, I think we have a good package and that we can take the fight to them. A win will help us in the championship so we'll just concentrate on that."

- NZ Herald

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