Motorsport: Paddon has fighting spirit

By Eric Thompson

Hayden Paddon. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Hayden Paddon. Photo / Michael Cunningham

New Zealand driver Hayden Paddon is third in the production world rally championship category after the first day of the rally of Finland.

The margin between Paddon and overnight PWRC category leader, Finland's Jarkko Nikara, is 13.1 seconds. Paddon, who sat 25th in the overall event standings, said the set-up of his Belgium-based Symtech Racing Subaru STI rally car still was not to his liking through the 40km of the event's opening three stages.

"Our times have not been too bad knowing that there is still a lot in reserve and we're in a good position to attack for the lead. The plan was to push hard but with the lack of rear grip we have had again, it has made it hard to push.

"The Symtech team are doing a fantastic job, however and we will make some more changes tonight so that the car is more stable in the fast sections."

Straight after finishing a close second to former World Rally Championship (WRC) driver Chris Atkinson at the International Rally Whangarei, Paddon will have his work cut out as Finland has produced some of the best rally drivers in the world.

Winning in Portugal and Argentina will mean nothing to the local drivers who will be out to prove they're the best on the ultra fast roads in and around the city of Jyvaskyla.

Locally known as the Finnish Grand Prix, it is probably the fastest rally in the season with the cars spending most of the time flat out whistling along narrow gravel roads inches from trees on either side. And just to add a bit of spice, the cars will launch themselves skyward a number of times over blind crests.

"All the locals know the roads but in terms of the international drivers here, most of them are new," said Paddon.

"I'm feeling pretty good about the event and the weather's warm and the roads are dry. It should be good. Because the pace at this place is so fast you can't afford to hesitate and if you do you lose so much momentum in the car."

The winner of Rally Finland is normally the driver who has the biggest dollop of 'sisu', Finnish for guts, and the most accurate pace notes for the hard compacted roads that require the car to be in the right place on the track before it takes off.

"The roads are really, really fast and quite similar in parts to some at home [New Zealand]. We have to have a unique setup for the car here because it's so fast.

"We've had to stiffen and lower the car, turning it almost into a race car. New Zealand roads are fast and flowing with lots of corners but here it's a lot faster.

"In New Zealand you have a lot of third gear corners but here the majority of it will be fourth/fifth gear stuff."

Last year the Geraldine driver and his co-driver John Kennard finished third at the event. "Day two of the rally are on roads that were used last year so we'll have some previous experience to look back on. Also, Whangarei was the perfect warm up before coming here.

"Not so much from the nature of the roads but the time in the seat. Also having such a close battle with Chris [Atkinson] will have helped."

Paddon's biggest challenge will come from Swede Patrick Flodin and Nikara who is one of the fastest local drivers and a national championship contender.

Paddon has the joint lead in the PWRC on 50 points with Czech driver Martin Semerad who has three starts to Paddon's two.

- NZ Herald

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