Dale Budge is a sports writer for the NZ Herald.

Motorsport: Paddon eager in Argentina

Hayden Paddon says starting down the order could help him at Rally Argentina as leaders will sweep the roads first. Photo / Supplied
Hayden Paddon says starting down the order could help him at Rally Argentina as leaders will sweep the roads first. Photo / Supplied

The euphoria of winning a maiden WRC event will still sit with Kiwi driver Hayden Paddon at this weekend's Rally Argentina.

A year ago the young New Zealander became the first driver from the Southern Hemisphere to win a WRC event when he held off world champion Sebastien Ogier on the famous El Condor stage to claim a breakthrough win.

A year on and, after a horror start to 2017, Paddon heads to Argentina hoping to get his groove back on a surface he enjoys and in a place where he's had success.

The Hyundai driver doesn't feel any additional pressure going back as the reigning champion.

"It is just another rally," Paddon said. "If anything it gives me confidence going to a rally I know that we can perform well on. The memories from last year mean I go there in a very positive frame of mind.

"Obviously you'd like to try and repeat the result but a good first step is trying to get back on the podium and I think we can do that.

"We just have to make sure we have a good recce, we have a good road position on the first day and we have to make the most of that and have a clean rally."

Paddon was down on confidence after a run of disappointing events so far this year. He returned to New Zealand last week for a short break to clear his head and heads to Argentina feeling a little better about his 2017 aspirations.

"I think it is just a matter of getting a bit of momentum going back in our favour," the 30-year-old said. "We had a lot of things that went wrong for us in the second half of last year and this year obviously didn't start so well.

"It only takes one good result to get a bit of momentum and confidence back."

Paddon will benefit from a friendly road position courtesy of his slow start to the year. The running order is determined by standings with the current championship leader starting first on the road, effectively sweeping the roads clear of loose gravel allowing the latter cars to find better grip.

"It is definitely going to help providing the events stay dry," Paddon admitted. "Because we have dropped so far back points wise at the moment it means for the next two or three rallies at least we will have a good road position.

"The rules are a little bit different this year - this year you only get that advantage for one day where as last year you had it for two.

"It does mean you still have your work cut out on day two and three trying to defend a good position if that is what you've been able to get yourself into."

The other thing that has gone in Paddon's favour so far is that the first four rallies have produced four different rally winners in four different manufacturers. It means the championship is wide open and not much separates the top drivers.

"There is no one running away with it at the moment," Paddon said. "In saying that, my target is not to be winning the championship this year - that is not what the focus is on. In that respect maybe it is not so important.

"We are focused on event results, building experience, building the speed and of course trying to get a few more podiums under our belt."

• Rally Argentina gets under way tomorrow morning (NZ time) with a super special stage in Cordoba.

- NZ Herald

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