Motor racing: Paddon back on road for WRC

By Eric Thompson

Winning 2011 production world team together for bid to get on podium again.

As well as the European Rally race in Ypres, Paddon and co-driver John Kennard are also back in the running with two rounds of the 2013 WRC-2 championship. Photo / Supplied
As well as the European Rally race in Ypres, Paddon and co-driver John Kennard are also back in the running with two rounds of the 2013 WRC-2 championship. Photo / Supplied

Former production world rally champion Hayden Paddon is finally beginning to build some momentum in his bid to get back into the WRC fray.

The Kiwi announced recently he'd done a deal to race at two rounds of the 2013 WRC-2 championship in Finland and Germany in August.

Paddon and co-driver John Kennard have also clinched a deal to race in the Ypres Rally, Belgium, which is part of the European Rally Championship.

The pair head out in about a week and will pilot a Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta S2000 run by Symtech Racing, with whom Paddon and Kennard won the 2011 FIA Production World Rally Championship. Paddon will then return to BRR and Skoda for Rally Finland.

"We've always kept in touch with our old team and an opportunity presented itself to do the Ypres rally," said Paddon.

"It's a good chance to get a warm-up rally in before we head up to Finland for the world championship round. It's also a good way to challenge ourselves at a new event in a new car.

"It's good to test yourself as a driver and it's certainly not a small event and is reasonably well followed over there.

"In a change from the WRC, where in an S2000 car you're only on the fringe of a top 10 finish, at this event you're in with a chance for an outright win."

Based in the northwest Belgian town of Ypres, the 59-year-old rally will host 120 competitors from about 16 countries and has media from 19 European countries following the event. All good exposure for Paddon, if he does well, to seal a few more rounds other than the two he has locked in.

In the past three years, it's been won by local hero Freddy Loix and Finn Juho Hanninen both driving Skoda Fabia S2000 cars. The event is on asphalt roads around the historic market town; its narrow stages through farmland feature drainage ditches, telegraph poles and tight junctions, so taking shortcuts is a risky choice.

"It's seen as a specialist event and we'll be up against it, that's for sure. The locals know the roads like the back of their hands, there are loads of ditches and no room for error.

"It's a different style of driving where you drop the wheels into the ditch on the inside of the corner and use it to hold the car in line on the road.

"We'll definitely give it a good shot but we do have to be realistic and hope nothing bad goes wrong before heading into our next race and we get disheartened."

Paddon and Kennard are happy to be back with Symtech Racing again, whom they last worked with during their 2011 PWRC championship-winning year. As a Belgian team, their local experience and expertise will help the Kiwis extract the most from their performance and the event.

"John and I have a good system with writing notes on new events, so we're backing ourselves to be challenging the leading teams. Our target for the rally is a podium finish, which we think is a realistic goal and if we win, all that much better," said Paddon.

Things are definitely getting better for the pair as it's very much on the cards Paddon could cross the Ditch and line up for the Australian round of the WRC in September. His team has just about all the funding in place to contest the event, and is finalising the detail.

"We'll stay out in Europe after the Ypres rally to do Finland and Germany and then be back in New Zealand in time for the Possum Bourne rally [on September 7] that's part of the New Zealand championships," said Paddon, who leads the domestic series from Richard Mason and Ben Hunt.

- NZ Herald

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