Hayden Paddon says he and co-driver John Kennard plan to push for a strong performance at the final round of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship in Wales this coming weekend.
Paddon’s objective is to contribute a good points’ haul to assist the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team alongside team-mate Dani Sordo in their quest to regain second place for the team in the WRC manufacturers’ championship.
Paddon says he’ll be taking the same approach as usual as he prepares his Hyundai i20 WRC car for the traditionally wet and muddy Welsh rally roads.
“We’ll seek to prepare well and then push as hard as we can on the rally,” says Paddon who confirmed a three year contract with the team just two weeks ago. “Realistically the best thing we can try and do for the team is score big points, and to do that we have to push. It won’t be enough to just cruise and take points for the lower positions.”
Like all WRC competitors, New Zealand’s leading rally driver had just a half day test prior to this rally, offering a chance to make small changes and confirm the gravel settings for his car.
Paddon contests the Welsh event for sixth time – Kennard will compete there for the eighth time – and even though he is familiar with the route, he says it’s still challenging.
“Yes, it's a rally we have good experience of but that doesn't make it any easier. The early winter conditions make for wet, muddy roads and very changeable grip levels. While I enjoy the fast nature of the stages, it's reading the grip levels which proves the most difficult.”
Saturday, the longest day of the rally, features two night stages. Paddon says there’s no experience like rallying at night. “It’s like tunnel vision and everything seems faster. John and I back ourselves that we write and commit to pace notes well which works when visibility is low. So not only at night, but we enjoy the foggy stages too – which can also be part of this rally, as can snow, in wintery Wales.”
Talking of pace notes, Kennard says the notes have changed a huge amount since he first did Rally GB. “Well, there weren’t any pace notes that first event I did with Brent Rawstron, who’s now my business partner in New Zealand,” says Kennard. “Hayden and I are in about the third evolution of our pace note system. Now that we’re fighting for the last fractions of a second on our stage times against top WRC competitors, we’re refining our notes with different scenarios for different surfaces and conditions. Everything we’re working on at present is aimed at being in the best possible position to start next year.”
With 312 competitive kilometres and a whopping 1145 kilometres of touring stages, the rally covers a large portion of mid and north Wales. There is no mid-leg service on Friday, just a tyre fitting opportunity. Saturday is the longest leg with the first cars getting underway before the sun rises and the two night stages meaning competitors don’t return to the service park until after 9pm. Sunday’s four stage itinerary wraps up the rally and this year’s WRC season, and includes a 4.74km sprint on asphalt, using gravel tyres, around the rocky Great Orme headland.
The goal of a good result in Wales for the team is definitely top of mind. Paddon also adds that the opportunity ahead of him now with the team contract means he can plan more for the future. “For the time being, we keep doing what we’ve been doing, but we are also now planning more long term so we can keep moving forward. We’ll be refining this year’s systems in terms of training, preparation and pace notes so we can hit the ground running in Monte Carlo next year.”
Following the Welsh event, Paddon will return to New Zealand briefly to co-judge the Red Bull Trolley Grand Prix in Auckland before returning to Europe for more testing with the team in their new generation i20 WRC car.