Motorsport: Paddon sure of regaining lead

By Eric Thompson

A broken inlet valve meant Hayden Paddon and John Kennard earned no points in round five of the S2000 championship.Picture / Honza Fronek
A broken inlet valve meant Hayden Paddon and John Kennard earned no points in round five of the S2000 championship.Picture / Honza Fronek

It wasn't the first time in Hayden Paddon's racing career he's been the victim of some small mechanical gizmo letting go in the bowels of an engine, ending his race weekend.

World rally rules dictate that if something lets go, or gets severely damaged, in a sealed part of the car - engine block, engine head or roll cage - there's no racing the next day.

When you're the defending Production World Rally Champion, and leading the 2012 WRC S2000 category, having to park up and watch your competitors pick up all the points is a hard bone to chew.

In Finland for round five of the S2000 championship Paddon and John Kennard had to accept it wasn't his weekend. No strangers to mechanical hiccups, the pair will normally nurse a damaged car home to the service park. Just as they did when the WRC was here in New Zealand earlier in the year, when they made it back to the Auckland Viaduct with the gearbox missing a few cogs.

"We were a little bit unlucky there [Finland] to be honest," said Paddon on a visit back to Auckland. "We broke an inlet valve in the engine and it's the first time one of the S2000 cars has ever broken an inlet valve.

"It was just our luck, and at least we know it won't happen again."

Rallying tends to put a few extra stresses and strains on machinery not seen in too many other forms of motorsport.

Very rarely are there any run-off areas, safety walls, or consistent road surfaces, and coupled with the pounding of jumps, water, rocks and potholes, it's not surprising things can go awry.

"You can normally change most things on the car if something goes wrong. The only two parts you can't change during a rally are the body shell [roll cage] and the engine because they're sealed units.

"Anything else can be changed during the rally. Unfortunately in Finland we had all the bits we needed to fix the problem sitting in the truck, but because of the rules we weren't allowed to fix the problem," said Paddon.

While the rules may have frustrated Paddon, Kennard and the crew, it's easy to see why they were introduced. Back in the days of the Group B rally cars, some of the teams would swap cars if their number one driver crashed and the number two car was okay.

Despite the setback of no points and slipping back to second in the race for the S2000 title, Paddon is still confident he can get the championship lead back from PG Andersson.

"The next round is Wales Rally GB in September and we're feeling pretty confident. Although we didn't finish the rally in Finland we had enough time in the car to know we're fast and can only get faster.

"The speed was there and there's a lot more to come. GB is the rally we've probably got the most experience at so we should go well.

"Provided nothing goes wrong we can mount a good challenge and get back into the championship lead," said Paddon.

There are three rounds left in the 2012 championship, and while Paddon and his team are locked into the British-based round, the remaining events in France and Spain aren't a given yet.

The Kiwi team still need top-up funds to ensure Paddon and Kennard can compete at their best and cement themselves as the best rallying combination New Zealand has produced.

- NZ Herald

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