Motorsport: Team Paddon's back on track after fire

By Eric Thompson

Motorsport team work like demons to build new Hyundai WRG i20 in just eight days.
Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are back on Italian roads where they scored their first podium finish in a WRC event. Photo / Timo Anis
Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are back on Italian roads where they scored their first podium finish in a WRC event. Photo / Timo Anis

New Zealand rally star Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard are back on the roads where they scored their first podium finish in a WRC event - Rally Italy Sardegna.

Heading into Portugal the pair had notched their first WRC victory in Argentina and where second in the championship behind runaway leader Sebastien Ogier.

However, a small mistake ended in the biggest of messes when his Hyundai WRG i20 caught fire burning the car down to just the shell.

Never one to harbour a mishap, Paddon is focused solely on his job at hand this weekend.

"Portugal is already forgotten, and [we're] just focused on a good result this weekend," said Paddon.

"The confidence is high, the feeling in the car is really good and the preparation has been as good as it could be.

We are ready to go."

The Hyundai Motorsport team worked like demons to build Paddon a brand new car from the ground up in just eight days so he and Kennard could compete this weekend.

The car was fixed so quickly that Paddon was able to test the i20 before the event and made subsequent further improvements, and he's now looking forward to rejoining the fray and garnering more championship points.

"As much as I would have loved to have mucked in and helped rebuild the car, in this environment it is best to leave the experts to the job.

"Of course I visited the workshop a couple of times to speak with the team and see progress, but they thrive under pressure and really enjoyed the challenge.

"Effectively we have new cars for every event by the time they go through the rebuild process after each rally, so it was business as usual," said Paddon.

The rally is held over rough, rock infested gravel roads near the town of Alghero in the northwest of Sardinia. As well as challenging road surfaces, drivers also have to deal with air temperatures in the low 30C, which will both put a strain on drivers, crews and mechanical components.

"The roads offer quite a lot of grip on the second pass, but they are also narrow, technical and unforgiving. It's a rally where it's not all about speed; you also have to look after the car.

"Saturday will be much the same as Friday [technical] and Sunday half and half. A good mixture of stages and they're generally looking in good condition with some rough sections.

"There are a few new stages on the first day, but the second day is similar to the previous two years [177 competitive kilometres].

"What's important is to get off to a good start, make no mistakes and stay out trouble," said Paddon.

Paddon and Kennard start fourth on the road and are looking to their rivals ahead of them, both in the rally and in championship, to do a bit of sweeping. Things should be better on the second pass as the grip levels will have risen.

The rally got under way on Thursday night, where Volkswagen's Ogier was quickest, with a super special stage before drivers tackled eight stages overnight including the new Tula stage. Today's six stages including the longest stage at 44km and tomorrow they tackle the Cala Flumini coastal road and the new Sassari-Argentiera stage, which forms the event's 6.96km power stage.

- NZ Herald

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