New Zealand’s rally star Hayden Paddon has a clear focus as the FIA World Rally Championship heads to the French Mediterranean island of Corsica for round four of the 2017 season – to continue improving his performance on tarmac.
With co-driver John Kennard alongside, Paddon wants to set a good pace in his Hyundai i20 Coupe world rally car in the Tour de Corse.
“We want to be there to back up our team-mates Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo who will be in a good position to fight at the front,” Paddon says following a one-day tarmac test in the 2017-spec Hyundai, and a hard-fought second place last weekend at Rallye Sanremo at the wheel of the New Generation i20 R5 with Seb Marshall in the co-driver’s seat.
“We need to focus on improving and getting ever more comfortable, but of course we also lean on our team-mates to help us learn more on this surface.”
The one-day test helped Paddon get more used to the ’17 car on dry asphalt. “We have not spent much time in the car on tarmac, so it was valuable seat time.”
This is the third time Paddon and Kennard have contested the iconic Tour de Corse, the rally of 10,000 corners, which features classic narrow, twisty mountain asphalt roads across the whole island. The rally comprises just 10 special stages, ranging from 10.42km to 53.78km in length. The total number of competitive kilometres – 316.76 – is not dissimilar to other WRC events which typically feature 17-18 shorter stages.
“It’s a nice rally, flowing stages and obviously very twisty in places, but one of the more enjoyable tarmac rallies. The itinerary is much the same as last year, so in that sense it’s a little more relaxed for us returning to a rally that is mostly unchanged and we know what to expect. The long stages coupled with the faster cars will mean that tyre management will be key.”
Last year the Tour de Corse ran in late September, so this year’s April timing brings it into the European spring, rather than early autumn. “It seems to be a bit cooler compared to September but the weather seems reasonably settled and shouldn’t affect things too much.”
The Corsican terrain delivers its own challenges on Kennard’s side of the car.
“The twisty roads obviously make it a slower rally, but the corners are totally relentless and all look much the same, so it’s never an easy event to read notes on,” says Blenheim-based Kennard.
“Combined with the physicality added by being on tarmac in the 2017-spec cars, it makes for a tough test of man and machine.”
Paddon and Kennard will start the first day ninth on the road in the #4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, based on their current championship position. Saturday and Sunday will see WRC competitors running in reverse rally classification.
Key facts of Tour de Corse
Dates: 6-9 April 2017
Stages: 10 (316.76 competitive km)
Total distance: 1082.20km
WRC competitors: 11
Location: Bastia, Corsica
The first pure asphalt round of the year, breaking up a series of seven travel rallies.
Service park is at Bastia Airport in the north-east, but the west coast town of Ajaccio hosts Thursday evening’s start ceremony.
Friday features two stages near the island’s capital that are tackled twice, with no service, just a mid-leg tyre change.
The itinerary is identical to 2016, but several stages have been shortened to reduce the competitive distance to 316.76km.
The longest stage is on Sunday – a monster 53.78km.
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
by Kate Gordon-Smith/Relish Communications