Motorsport: Reliability is key out of rally gate for Paddon

By Dale Budge

Hayden Paddon had a good dust-up with the best rally drivers in the world, 2016. Photo / Greg Henderson
Hayden Paddon had a good dust-up with the best rally drivers in the world, 2016. Photo / Greg Henderson

Kiwi rally driver Hayden Paddon is hoping his new Hyundai's testing results transfers into competition success at the weekend's season-opening event in Monte Carlo.

The World Rally Championship ushers in newly designed cars in 2017 with the pecking order between the four manufacturers - Hyundai, Citroen, Ford and Toyota - very much up in the air until they go head-to-head in competition.

Paddon says reliability will be the key out of the gate.

"First and foremost when you have any new car is ensuring that you have good reliability," he said.

"I think from the testing we have done over the past six months - touch wood - that is a part we have got reasonably sorted. I am reasonably confident in that aspect so now it is focusing on the performance side and the speed of the car."

The Monte Carlo event is notoriously harsh with the winter conditions often making tyre choice more important than outright speed. With the second round of the championship being the only snow rally of the year in Sweden, Paddon says it could be a few rallies into the championship before it becomes clear which manufacturer has the fastest car.

"It is going to be really hard to get a gauge on the speed of all the cars and the teams until maybe about Argentina or even Corsica because the first two or three events are so specialist or unique."

Paddon, who scored a maiden WRC win in Argentina last year on the way to finishing fourth in the world championship, says he hopes to make further improvement this year.

"We want to continue the progression we have made over the past few years. We want to find more speed. We want to continue to fight more often at the front and win more rallies. We want to improve more on tarmac.

"2016 was a step up from 2015 and we need to make the same steps again this year.

"I don't think we will target any specific event. Gravel is obviously our strong point still so any gravel event we go to we will have high hopes of fighting for at least a podium.

"But it would probably mean more if we could get ourselves in a position to fight for podiums on tarmac compared to winning on gravel just because it is an area where we lack so much experience compared to everyone else and we are trying to play catch-up there."

Paddon will carry the No4 on his Hyundai with teammates Thierry Neuville in car No5 and Dani Sordo six. The New Zealander says the numbers are not indicative of the team's priority.

"There is equal status in the team. The idea was whoever was the first Hyundai driver last year got to pick their number first and that was Thierry and he picked five. I went next and naturally chose four.

"There is no favouritism - everything is fair and even between all the drivers."

- NZ Herald

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