Defending New Zealand rally champion David Holder and co-driver Jason Farmer are determined to make the most of the opportunity to contest the Hyundai i20 AP4+ rally car at this weekend’s Otago Rally.
Holder was selected to pilot the Hyundai New Zealand-backed i20 car for the first two rounds of the 2017 New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC), first the 8-9 April running of Otago’s famed gravel rally, then the International Rally of Whangarei later in April.
Competing under the Hyundai NZ Rally Team banner, the car is run by Paddon RallySport, co-managed by New Zealand’s world rally star Hayden Paddon and his father Chris with experienced engineer Mike Pittams, of Force Automotive in Tauranga, heading up the technical side.
And while Paddon will be competing in the Tour de Corse the same weekend as Otago, he’s actively involved in what’s going on with the preparation of both the car and the drivers.
“It has been a busy offseason,” says Paddon from Europe. “Mike has been working tirelessly to get the Hyundai NZ AP4+ car ready for the first round in Otago. We have focused on several developments from last year to improve reliability and to make the car easier to drive as it will be driven by first David Holder, then our Hyundai NZ Young Driver Scholarship winner Job Quantock, and then me. Adding EXT suspension and Pirelli tyres, we know we have a good package to compete for and win the NZRC manufacturers’ championship title.”
Twenty-eight year old Holder, originally from Invercargill and now based in Tauranga, has enjoyed the opportunity to focus on his own preparation for Otago.
“The event lead-up is very different to what I’m used to, in a good way. With Mike and the Paddon RallySport team focused on the car, I’ve taken a leaf from Hayden’s book working on my fitness. Admittedly it’s an area that hasn’t had a lot of emphasis over my career so far, so I’m definitely hoping to see some benefits. I’ve also been studying more in-car footage and generally just being more organised to focus solely on my job for the rally.”
With a small test in the Hyundai AP4+ car prior to Otago, Holder says it takes some getting used to. “Everything on the car is built for the purpose of racing, unlike traditional production-based cars. There’s more ‘tune-ability’ in terms of setup and I love the sequential gearbox!”
The key expectation from the team is for Holder to continue his development as a driver.
“I think it’s important for Jason and me to demonstrate consistent pace throughout the weekend. There’s an impressive line-up of NZRC drivers, but first you’ve got to finish. If things go well, we’d be rapt to make the podium on our first event, but the key objective to score as many points as possible for the team. We also aim to enjoy the moment on the fast-paced Otago roads – how many people get this sort of opportunity? Norm Oakley and the Otago team put together a fantastic event every year as I’m sure competitor and spectator numbers will highlight.”
Talking of his Hamilton-based co-driver, Holder adds: “Jason and I are working well together and I’m confident we will continue to get better and better the more time we spend in the car. Jason is equally excited to be given the opportunity to represent Paddon Rallysport and Hyundai New Zealand.”
Holder and Farmer are among 59 entries for the opening NZRC round which gets underway in Dunedin’s Octagon on Friday, 7 April. They then tackle 14 special stages with a competitive distance of nearly 285 kilometres, including Saturday’s stages south-west of Dunedin around Lawrence and Sunday’s around and inland from Taieri.
Follow Paddon Rallysport on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ paddonrallysport
by Kate Gordon-Smith/Relish Communications