Motorsport: Paddon hunting podium in Spain

By Eric Thompson

Hayden Paddon says being out of contention to win the series takes the pressure off and he'll be out purely to show what he's made of. Photo / Honza Fronek
Hayden Paddon says being out of contention to win the series takes the pressure off and he'll be out purely to show what he's made of. Photo / Honza Fronek

Hayden Paddon will be aiming for a good run in Spain this weekend to get into a top three finish in the S2000 championship.

For most of the series Paddon was on track to win back-to-back world titles, but two poor finishes at Rally GB and Rallye de France put paid to any chance of that.

From leading the championship, Paddon has slowly slipped back to fourth, 25 points off the leader Craig Breen.

"We're using the same Skoda Fabia we did in France and were going well until our little incident," said Paddon.

"The team won the SWRC championship here last year with Juho Hanninen and so have very good knowledge of car set-up.

"We've made some good developments with the car at a test in Austria last week and the team have had five years' experience with the Skoda.

"There is no pressure on us now and we don't have to worry about points.

We want to show our speed and to win in Spain would be great."

For a while there, since the Kiwi team wasn't in with any realistic chance of winning the title, it looked like Paddon would be packing his bags after France and heading home.

However, of all people, Red Bull stepped up to the plate and in a one-off deal is bankrolling Paddon's Spanish adventure.

"The deal sort of came through our team manager Raimund [Baumschlager] who's got quite a few connections with Red Bull and I've done quite a lot of work with them anyway. We actually came over and tested a Mini rally car late last year and that was a Red Bull initiative and that's where I first met them.

"They've been watching our stage times throughout the year and obviously like what they see and are taking a bit of a punt in helping us out for this event.

"It's only a one-race deal at this point but saying that, Red Bull haven't done any one-off deals before. But we're not going to be counting our chickens before they hatch just yet," said Paddon.

It's not overly surprising the energy drink manufacturer is showing interest in Paddon and Kennard as this season they have shown a clean pair of heels to all the other S2000 competitors, having been the fastest SWRC pair at every rally.

They have also won more than double the stages of anyone else, and when not suffering mechanical woes, are the ones to beat.

"I like the roads here and the gravel, which is my favourite part, is quite flowing with a hard base. The tarmac stages are really great. They're like a great big racetrack - they're wide and flowing.

"The best thing is you don't get any dirt or rubbish on the tarmac as there is a lot of Armco at the edge, which stops the WRC cars cutting corners and dumping dirt all over the tarmac," said Paddon.

A good result in Spain will be the best way to end the season and in doing so may raise the New Zealanders' stock as they try to get a plan sorted for next year.

Based in Salou, the Spanish event is run on roads to the west of the coastal city. The first day is a challenging mix of gravel and asphalt, followed by two days of asphalt stages and a total of 405.46 racing kilometres.

- NZ Herald

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