Hayden Paddon and co-driver Seb Marshall will draw on the positive vibes of Kiwi supporters as they aim to wrap up the 2017 World Rally Championship season on a positive note in Australia.
The star Kiwi rally driver and his British co-driver pilot the #4 Hyundai i20 Coupe world rally car in this week’s Rally Australia which kicks off in the New South Wales coastal town of Coffs Harbour on 16 November.
“It’s the sixth time I’ve contested Rally Australia, but the first time for Seb, so we want to enjoy the whole rally,” says Paddon en route from Europe to Australia. “It’s been such a tough year that we need to use this event as a reset to build towards 2018.”
There’s plenty of inspiration for the pair from the large contingent of New Zealand rally fans travel to the Australian WRC round, plus around 100 people on an exclusive Paddon RallySport tour.
“It’s as close to home we get, and while the roads are quite different to New Zealand, with the number of Kiwis that come over, it feels a little like a rally at home. The atmosphere with the amount of Kiwi support and being so close to home generally makes it feel more relaxed. There will be plenty of support on the stages and it’s also good to see a couple of other Kiwi drivers this year also competing,” Paddon says.
“The long 50km Nambucca stage is a highlight stage of the year for me. It’s a fast-flowing public road stage and has been used every year of the event. I think we all know every corner of that stage by memory.”
With around 320 competitive kilometres ahead on the rugged, dusty forest and shire roads, Paddon says tyre wear is often very high. “However early forecasts are showing that we could expect a bit of rain this year. That could throw a curve ball as is not something we normally expect here. If it stays dry, we have a really good road position [tenth] that we can take advantage of. If it’s wet, it will be like Wales Rally GB again with slippery and unpredictable conditions.”
Paddon and Marshall will use the pre-event shakedown on Thursday to finetune the car for the forecast conditions, before the rally gets underway on Friday morning.
Key facts of Rally Australia
- Dates: 16-19 November 2017
- Stages: 21 (318.33 competitive km)
- Total distance: 947.55 km
- WRC competitors: 12
- Location: Coffs Harbour
Revised opening leg on Friday north of Coffs Harbour which blends familiar roads into three new stages on wild forest roads.
Saturday morning’s near-49km Nambucca stage is split into two in the afternoon. The shorter Argents Hill will be broadcast globally on live television.
Friday and Saturday close with two runs through the asphalt Destination New South Wales super special stage on the Coffs jetty, with dramatic sea views offering a picture postcard backdrop.
Three stages to the north provide Sunday’s finale, including Bucca and the fan favourite Wedding Bells Power Stage.
Paddon and Hayden Paddon RallySport Global (HPRG) Ltd appreciate the support of their exclusive partners, Hyundai New Zealand, Pak’nSave and Z Energy, and associate sponsors Scott Sports and All About Signs Timaru.
by Kate Gordon-Smith/Relish Communications