Motorsport: Paddon has attitude adjustment

By Eric Thompson

Sealed surface hasn’t been rally ace’s happy place but he has been practising.
Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are better prepared for the tarmac they will face at Rally Germany. Picture / Vettas Media
Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are better prepared for the tarmac they will face at Rally Germany. Picture / Vettas Media

World Rally Championship Kiwi duo Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard are at Rally Germany, the first of four tarmac rallies, this weekend. Ever the self-deprecating sort of chap, Paddon is at pains to say tarmac and he aren't the best of friends.

This is the pair's second tilt at the event and Paddon has come along in leaps and bounds in the past 12 months, including picking up his maiden WRC victory - the first New Zealand driver to do so.

Over this time, he has been getting some tutelage in tarmac racing, most recently in a GT car alongside French tarmac rally specialist Nicholas Bernadi. He's also spent time behind the wheel of the Hyundai i20 WRC car through a set of closed roads during testing in Germany.

Kennard has a bit more faith in the young Kiwi and reckons he's nearly as fast as anyone else in the field over sealed roads.

"Hayden occasionally says he's not too good on tarmac and needs to learn stuff," said Kennard.

"He went quite good at his GT practice and, if you look back at his [tarmac] events like Corsica last year, he's actually reasonably good on tarmac and just needs to sharpen up the last little bit.

"He was setting times last year that were only two seconds slower than Dani [Sordo] over 45km. That's not a bad sort of time, by anyone's standard. The technique for the two [gravel and tarmac] is so different that you have to be able to do it automatically. That's what takes the time. He can do it, but doing it without thinking about it and naturally is the trick and he's almost there now."

You don't have to be an astrophysicist to work out racing on gravel is quite different to flinging a car around narrow tarmac roads, especially so in Germany, where the roads vary so much. At least note taking for the co-driver is easier with the surface being a lot smoother, but there are other issues to contend with.

"The main thing is that the car moves so differently on tarmac - like being in a go-kart, whereas on gravel, it's a lot smoother with the car sliding around. On tarmac, it's so jerky, with the car changing direction very positively and quickly, so you get bumped around a lot more.

"On one stage, there's over 100 junctions you have to get around. The car's moving radically all the time, so it makes reading the notes a bit harder. The G forces are a lot higher and then there's a big bang when you go up over the kerb," said Kennard.

Paddon and Kennard have well and truly put the DNFs of Portugal and Sardinia behind them by bouncing back in Poland and Finland to sit nicely in fourth, just 14 points out of second. However, Sebastien Ogier has a commanding 45-point lead at the top of the table.

"This event is a very different rally to the others. The three days are really nothing like each other. One day, you're almost exclusively in the vineyards on tiny little narrow tracks up in the hills.

"The next day, you're in a military style compound for half the day and the other stages are out in rolling farmland with little patches of trees.

"Last year, it was a new rally for us but this time, we have 12 months more experience. This will be the first time we've run the new car on tarmac [Monte Carlo was in the old car]. The car's in tarmac trim but it's not too different to what we've been using.

"Considering the season we've had, to still be hanging in there in fourth in the championship, you've got to be relatively pleased. It has been an up-and-down season, that's for sure. Hayden's back at his best, having put the two DNFs behind him and is right on it again," said Kennard.

Tyre choices and weather will play big parts in the weekend's proceedings. The road surfaces change, not only between each stage, but also within the roads being used for each stage. Throw in a bit of water and you might again see cars flying through those very expensive vineyards.

Based in the west of Germany, the rally is raced over 306km through 18 stages. Today is the longest day of the rally, including two runs over Panzerplatte Lang. Four stages on Sunday are split between the Mosel vineyards and the Sauertal test in the hills near the Luxembourg border, which also acts as the power stage.

Pitstop

Champs chasing win

David Holder and co-driver Jason Farmer already have the national rally title in the bag but they're keen to round out the season with another win this weekend at Rally Coromandel. It'll be a battle for the remaining podium places, with eight cars separated by only 12 points. Emma Gilmour leads the minor placing pack and is hoping for her second win.

Dixon hanging in

There are 18 drivers still with a mathematical chance of winning the 2016 IndyCar championship. Kiwi Scott Dixon has hung in there during one of his worst seasons in 14 years but needs to win at least three of the remaining four races to move out of fifth and into series contention.

China rally canned

The FIA and the World Rally Championship promoter have announced the cancellation of the Chinese round of the series. Recent heavy rain has caused major flooding near Beijing, washing a number of the stage roads away. Due to run September 8-11, it was to be the first Chinese rally since 1999.

Isle of Man-style race off

An adventurous proposal to host an Isle of Man TT-style race on the Sunshine Coast in Australia has been pulled. Safety issues over the 47km course around Maleny caused the plan to be abandoned. Not all is lost, though, with the organisers still looking for a suitable location.

Stanaway keen on V8s

Aston Martin works endurance driver Richie Stanaway may become the sixth Kiwi in the V8 Supercars field in 2018. He still has a year to go on his WEC contract but is so keen to get to grips with a Super Black Racing car, he's giving the Circuit of the Americas event on September 15-17 a miss to race at Sandown.

Under the hood

Organisers of the MotoGP championship are playing a dangerous game if they start to tamper with a series that has more excitement than you can poke a stick at. It's a slippery slope (just ask fans of Formula One) when engineers start changing the rules. A new pit-to-rider communication system is being introduced where crew chiefs can send around 20 types of messages to their riders. The riders don't want the pit wall making decisions for them, and championship leader Marc Marquez reckons it'll demean the sport by taking away the ability of a rider to be the master of his own destiny.

- NZ Herald

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