Kiwi rally driver Hayden Paddon is searching for a big result in Portugal this weekend to erase his disappointing start to the year.
The 30-year-old Hyundai works driver has endured a horror start to the year with a crash in the opening stage of the Monte Carlo rally back in January setting the tone for an under-achieving season to date.
But Paddon's long-term goal has always been a bona fide crack at the title in 2018 and this year has been seen as a step along the development path.
While he has banked points at every event since Monte Carlo, the results haven't been anything to crow about. But one big result in Portugal and all of that disappointment could easily be eliminated.
"I think that is what we are searching for," Paddon told the Herald. "It doesn't take much momentum in the sport to inspire a lot more confidence and more positivity and even luck.
"I have never been a firm believer in luck but with a lot of the events that have happened recently you do need a little bit of lady luck on your side and that has been missing for us recently."
One of the biggest issues Paddon has faced this year is adjusting to the brand new 2017-spec cars. While teammates Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo appear to have had a smoother transition Paddon has struggled to adjust his driving style to new designs and that has prompted him and his Hyundai World Rally Team to rethink things heading into this weekend.
The plan is to try and tweak the car more to suit Paddon's style.
"We had two days of testing in Sardinia last week," he said. "The team is aware of what my concerns are and they are trying to help me and work with me.
"We found a couple of things last week but of course it is never going to be something that you wave a magic wand over and fix immediately but certainly some of the things we found last week were positive.
"We are obviously hoping that translates come the rally this weekend that we will find a bit more performance because of it."
Paddon will get a glimpse of the future with co-driver Seb Marshall taking the reins from John Kennard this event as the New Zealander battles a hip injury.
Brit Marshall has already been confirmed as Kennard's replacement when he retires later in the season but this event shapes as a preview of what is to come.
"Seb and I have done quite a lot of work in the background in testing and other little events and we know how [the] other works," Paddon said.
"Seb will fit into that role perfectly and it won't really take any adjustment for either of us and, as far as I am concerned, it is business as usual."
Paddon is in prime position to make a strong start with a good road position on the opening day. Road position on the opening leg is set by championship order, so Paddon will be eighth.
The order for the remainder of the event is set by the overall classification at the end of each leg in reverse order, meaning a good start is crucial, something that is in the forefront of Paddon's mind.
"We have got a good road position on the Friday being further back but we need to keep that road position for Saturday and Sunday to have a good result there.
"The key really is to have a good strategy for the whole rally. It is very much a sprint event and you have to be fast from the outset here.
"You can't afford to have any mistakes or slow stages - right from stage one you need to have a good consistent speed for the whole weekend."
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