New Zealand’s rally star Hayden Paddon didn’t achieve the results he was looking for in the Tour de Corse, but with a sixth-place finish and a move into eighth place on the drivers’ championship points-table, there were several positives to take from the fourth round of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship which wrapped up on Sunday (CEST).
“It’s been a learning weekend for us, but we have to find the positives,” said Paddon at the end of the French WRC round dubbed the rally of 10,000 corners. “Even if the end result doesn’t show it, we have been competing closer to the front this weekend and shown an improvement from last year’s Tour de Corse.”
With co-driver John Kennard alongside, Paddon finished Friday’s opening four stages in seventh position overall. Damp patches made grip unreliable and mud was pulled out onto the road as all competitors strove for the fastest lines. At day’s end, Paddon felt he was making good steps forward with his driving, but was confused as to why he couldn’t produce the stage times he wanted. “We’ll sit down with the engineers to look at the data and see if we can make some improvements to setup. Of course, we want to be up higher than seventh, so we’ll see if we can try and improve on that.”
Saturday’s itinerary comprises 132 competitive kilometres in just four special stages. With the demise of rally leader Kris Meeke, the Kiwis moved up one spot on the leader-board to finish the day in sixth overall, but were essentially in no man’s land with a 41 second deficit to Craig Breen in fifth place. They were fourth quickest on the first run through the day’s second stage – their best stage result of the rally.
Paddon said: “We’re trying some different things with the car setup and it hasn’t really felt like that’s worked this morning, but still good information to take forward. We’re just in a position in the rally where we haven’t got a whole lot to gain, but we can lose, so it’s just a matter of being sensible and get the car to the finish.”
With just two stages on Sunday morning to conclude the rally, Paddon’s focus was simply on bringing the car home safely – when several other WRC competitors did not – and scoring a few more points, which he did. Team-mate Thierry Neuville secured his first WRC victory of the season, with the third Hyundai Motorsport i20 Coupe WRC in the hands of Dani Sordo coming home a very close third.
“There’s obviously still plenty to learn but we’re making progress,” said Paddon. “We must now look ahead to the next rally, the start of a run of five on gravel. We should have a good road position for Argentina so I’m looking to feature more prominently in the next events. Congratulations to Thierry and Nicolas – and everyone back at Alzenau – for the victory.”
Paddon and Hayden Paddon RallySport Global (HPRG) Ltd appreciates the support of their exclusive partners, Hyundai New Zealand, Pak’nSave and Z Energy and associate sponsors Scott Sports and All About Signs Timaru.
Hayden Paddon’s 2017 WRC schedule with Hyundai Motorsport
WRC Round 1: Monte Carlo, 19-22 January
WRC Round 2: Sweden, 9-12 February
WRC Round 3: Mexico, 9-12 March
WRC Round 4: France, 6-9 April
WRC Round 5: Argentina, 27-30 April
WRC Round 6: Portugal, 18-21 May
WRC Round 7: Italy, 8-11 June
WRC Round 8: Poland, 29 June – 2 July
WRC Round 9: Finland, 27-30 July
WRC Round 10: Germany, 17-20 August
WRC Round 11: Spain, 5-8 October
WRC Round 12: Great Britain, 26-29 October
WRC Round 13: Australia, 16-19 November