Hayden Paddon and John Kennard marked their 100th rally together with their best result to date on a tarmac rally, securing fourth place in RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España, the 11th round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship.
Paddon and Kennard completed Sunday’s (European time) final four stages, determined to demonstrate their improving pace on the tarmac surface they’ve been working hard to master. Second quickest on the day’s opening 19.30km test to rally winner Sébastien Ogier, they were third quickest on the next two stages, then fourth equal with Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville on the event’s final stage, the power stage on which the fastest three crews can earn bonus points.
Hyundai Motorsport has scored one of its best-combined team results with two New Generation i20 WRCs on the podium in Spain in the hands of Dani Sordo and Neuville, while Paddon made it three Hyundais inside the top-four.
“It’s been a positive weekend,” said Paddon on Sunday afternoon. “I think we can be happy with the pace we’ve had on tarmac for the last day and a half. Once we made the changes at lunchtime yesterday, we’ve been able to be up near the front and challenging our team-mates, and today, even a little bit at the front. We can take a lot of pleasure from that, that at long last we’ve made some progress on tarmac. Certainly without the problems on Friday, we could have been challenging to be on the podium, but it is what it is. Fourth is still a good result. Even better for the team to have three cars in the top four and a good payback for all the work everyone’s putting in back at the factory and here on the rallies.”
The Kiwi crew continued with their own learning on tarmac stages and kept the pressure to finish 12.8 seconds behind Neuville, an improvement on Saturday’s margin of 16.1 seconds. Paddon and Kennard were comfortable in fourth, being nearly two minutes ahead of fifth-placed Mads Ostberg.
Among the highlights of Paddon and Kennard’s weekend on the unique mixed surface rally in Spain were their stage times up the top of leader-board – three second-quickest, three third-quickest and two fourth-quickest on 19 stages in total. They finished Saturday on a high, second quickest in the 2.24 km super special stage in the host city of Salou. They were just 0.1 seconds off stage-winner Neuville with Paddon pleased with the close result: “…as I have struggled with these [short super special] stages all my life.” Among the challenges were Friday’s technical issues in their New Generation i20 World Rally Car when anti-lag system issues meant they couldn’t achieve the pace they expected on that day’s predominantly gravel stages.
Looking ahead, Paddon said: “Now we obviously have two gravel rallies ahead of us so we’re looking forward to getting back on the loose stuff to make amends for what happened on Friday [here]. We know we’ve got the speed on gravel, we’ve just got to put all the pieces together and try and challenge for maybe a couple of podiums to finish the year off.”
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We wanted to fight for the win today but it just wasn’t to be on this occasion, however we have to be happy with this double podium. Dani has had a fantastic weekend in front of his home crowd and thoroughly deserves this result. To have two crews on the podium, with Thierry taking his fifth podium of the season and now being in close contention for second place in the drivers’ championship, is a satisfying achievement. It’s even more pleasing when we see Hayden taking his best ever tarmac result in fourth and Kevin taking his WRC career best. There are many positive lessons we can take away from this rally to make improvements for the future. Now, our focus shifts back to gravel for Wales Rally GB and Australia – we want to finish the season on a high.”
Paddon and Kennard hold fourth place in their respective drivers’ and co-drivers’ championship points-tables, but could still secure second in the standings with the final two rounds in Britain and Australia on their favoured dirt roads.
The World Rally Championship moves to Wales next with Wales Rally GB running 27-30 October before concluding at Rally Australia in November.
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.
by Kate Gordon-Smith/Relish Communications