Motorsport: Paddon not concerned with expectations

By Dale Budge

Hayden Paddon competes at Rally Finland. Photo / Supplied
Hayden Paddon competes at Rally Finland. Photo / Supplied

Kiwi rally driver Hayden Paddon has high hopes for this week's Rally Finland but he doesn't want everybody making a big deal about it.

The hard-working New Zealander enjoyed a break-through by capturing his first ever WRC event win in Argentina back in April. He became the first Kiwi to achieve the feat and all of a sudden everyone was talking about him as a potential challenger to three-time defending world champion Sebastien Ogier.

While Paddon himself remained focused on ticking off his own goals the external expectation began to get carried away and two rough results immediately after his win in Argentina didn't help.

"I have always had my own targets and my own goals that I'm sticking to," Paddon tells herald.co.nz. "If anything it was probably the perception from the media and public who were expecting a lot more from us after one win. From my side I very much keep to the
targets.

"It was just a coincidence that we had two bad rallies in a row from two little mistakes. At this level of the sport things like that are always going to happen it is just a shame it happened two rallies in a row.

"That didn't really come from any extra pressure from myself or any outside sources it was just straight forward mistakes on the event."

As a result Paddon took a step back from the media attention heading into the last rally in Poland. He also seemed particularly focused on driving his own rally, which resulted in a podium finish.

"I guess there were some lessons learned in trying to go back to basics and enjoy the drive a bit more and try and take the pressure off ourselves made the event go a bit smoother for ourselves," the 29-year-old explains.

"When you are in the car, in the heat of the moment, you not necessarily taking it easy or anything. You are still trying to drive to the best of your ability and get everything right and do a good job with your preparation.

"It is just trying to go into the rallies with a more relaxed mindset and it certainly helped there. The result in Poland takes pressure off and means we can move forward with more confidence."

He heads to this week's Rally Finland excited about the opportunity that lies in front of him.

"It is probably the one I look forward to the most all year," Paddon says. "This is our seventh time doing it so we have a lot of experience there.

"The stages are very similar to some parts you get at home. Even Scandinavia as a whole definitely has a New Zealand-type feel to it so we feel very comfortable there.

"The roads are just incredible to drive on - nice flowing roads with jumps and no better roads to drive on."

And when quizzed about his goals for the event itself Paddon says a win is most certainly the goal.

"The stage that we are getting to now is that every time we hop in the car the aim is to be competitive," Paddon says. "At the end of the day we all drive to win. That is why we are here and why we compete in the world championship - we all want to be winning. That is what we are trying to do at every rally.

"The gravel rallies especially we want to be competing right at the front. If come later in the rally, Saturday afternoon or Sunday, and we are in a position to win for sure we will be giving it everything we can to try and win.

"Going into rallies we have to go in with the mindset that we are going there to be as competitive as we can be and that we have prepared as well as possible."

Rally Finland starts on Friday morning.

- NZ Herald

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