Paddon eyeing up more podiums

Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard’s breakout 2015 season was highlighted by their first ever WRC podium – a second place finish at Rally Sardegna.


With a second-place finish at Rally Italia Sardegna and four more in the Top 5, Hayden Paddon is pretty happy with how his year in the WRC played out, citing the podium finish and fourth place in Poland as the season’s highlights.

“Those two events really helped to secure the three-year contract. It was after we got those results that the discussions started,” said Paddon. “However, I am a little disappointed we didn’t repeat the podium. We had a couple of opportunities, and once you get that first one you always want more!”

While those two results also boosted confidence and led to him and co-driver John Kennard posting regular top-five times, Paddon was quick to credit his team with helping to improve his driving.

“I’m continuously working with them and the engineers to develop my driving. After each rally, we pick one thing to improve on in the next.”    

Busy schedule

With Paddon signed on for three more years, his Hyundai team is entering him, Belgian Theirry Neuville and Spain’s Dani Sordo into all 14 events on the WRC’s 2016 calendar, which includes a round in China.

Team principal Michel Nandan said all three would be given the same chance to make their mark in the drivers’ championship, with Neuville expected to be named as the lead driver.

“We have a strong pool of drivers with a range of experience and strengths. We will not constrain ourselves by fixing specific car line-ups at each rally, instead assembling the best composition for each event to maximise our championship chances,” said Nandan.

“All three drivers will contest all rounds, including the rally in China, which will be new for everyone. They will have equal opportunities in the drivers’ championship.”

Despite having little down time, Paddon will spend Christmas with his family, before heading back to Europe early in 2016 to begin testing for the first rounds of the season, Rally Monte Carlo in January and Rally Sweden in February.      

“It’s always nice to come back and recharge the batteries over summer, but I get bored pretty easily and like getting back into the car as soon as possible,” he said. “I’ve done some testing already on Monte Carlo and enjoyed driving on the icy tarmac. I’m not too familiar with it and it will be challenging, but I’m looking forward to it.”

New car, new opportunities

Paddon is also hopeful that the launch of Hyundai’s new car will help him to close the gap on the WRC’s frontrunners.

“The goal of the team, as they’ve been designing and building the car, is to make it faster than the Volkswagens, and hopefully it will put us in a position to win some rallies.”

“I think the biggest improvements are in the engine and chassis, which has helped vastly improve the weight distribution,” said Hayden. “It also suits my driving style more than the older car, because it’s more front-axle orientated, which makes it feel more like a front-wheel-drive car.”

While he said it is too early to be realistically chasing the championship, his competitive nature means the chance to beat the likes of defending champion Sebastien Ogier is an extra motivator.

“We’re still the new boys on the block, but I don’t like being beaten by anyone! You have to respect Ogier for everything he’s achieved, and ultimately for us he’s the benchmark.”

NZ rallying in good health

Paddon said that over the last three years, he thinks New Zealand rallying has become a lot stronger.

“The national championship is attracting more competitors, and a lot of good young talent is coming through,” he said. “I think if they were able to get the sponsorship, two or three of them could make an international career out of it.”

He said that is a positive, as the campaign to bring Rally New Zealand back to the WRC calendar continues.

“The stronger the enthusiasm for the sport is, and the stronger our national championship; those things are helpful in bringing back Rally New Zealand.” 

 

WRC CALENDAR 2016
Rallye Monte-Carlo 21 -24 January
Rally Sweden 11 - 14 February
Guanajuato Rally México 3 - 6 March
Rally Argentina 21 - 24 April
Vodafone Rally de Portugal 19 - 22 May
Rally Italia Sardegna 9 - 12 June
LOTOS 73rd Rally Poland 30 June - 3 July
Neste Oil Rally Finland 28 - 31 July
ADAC Rallye Deutschland 18 - 21 August
Rally China  Beijing 8 - 11 September
Tour de Corse Rallye de France 29 September - 2 October
Rally RACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada 13 - 16 October
Wales Rally GB 27 - 30 October
Coates Hire Rally Australia 17 - 20 November

 

 
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