Photo credit: Vettas Media

Paddon and Kennard consolidate fifth at WRC Poland

New Zealand’s top rally sport pairing Hayden Paddon and John Kennard hold a strong fifth place overall following the second full day of competition at Rally Poland, the seventh round of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship.

Fresh from his debut WRC podium in Sardinia in June, Paddon took an intentionally conservative run in Thursday night’s opening super special stage, all part of his goal for a top five result in this notoriously fast rally.

Friday’s 155km itinerary was different in that instead of the opportunity to service their cars after the morning stages, all crews were limited to just a tyre change part-way through the eight competitive stages. The Kiwis ran ninth on the road, the start order determined by their championship position, and with 90 per cent of Rally Poland’s route new or reconfigured for the 2 to 5 July event, the Kiwis were once again on a relatively even playing field with their fellow 13 WRC crews.

Describing Friday’s stages as really enjoyable and challenging in equal measure, Paddon set a number of top four stage times to progress steadily up the event’s leader-board to finish Friday in fifth position.

Of Friday, Paddon said: “We struggled initially to pick up a rhythm and the pace notes were not working as well as we’d hoped. Things didn’t really gel as I had expected but we had some better runs this afternoon with a good tyre choice, particularly using the hard tyres on the long stage.

“Overall, it hasn’t been a bad day. We are in a close fight for the top five, so we have to keep our focus and continue to gain more confidence on these stages.”

Paddon and Kennard were the fastest Hyundai Motorsport crew for many of Friday’s stages as well as the day’s end. Team-mate Thierry Neuville held seventh, Dani Sordo ninth and team debutant Kevin Abbring 14th, while double world champion Sébastien Ogier had the rally lead.

With all WRC crews (unusually) still in the running as Saturday’s eight stages commenced, this meant Ogier again ran first on the road and Paddon ninth.

Paddon and Kennard ripped through Saturday’s 17.70km opener just 1.3 seconds off Ogier’s stage-winning pace, and with more top five stage times, their hold on fifth place overall was solid.

“It’s been a good morning. We’re happy to hold onto position and build up a little bit more of a gap behind. It’s been a bit challenging, the first couple of stages went well, and then struggled a bit in the second two. We know where we have to improve and what we have to keep working on. I think we’ve made an improvement on yesterday, but there’s still a long way to go. This afternoon we want try and see if we can eke out that gap a bit more to put us in a good position for tomorrow’s short day.”

Officials cancelled stage 14 for safety reasons with the huge crowds. Paddon then delivered another second-fastest stage time in the 15th stage, along with some further consistent top five times to finish the day with a strong hold on fifth place, 36.6 seconds behind Jari-Matti Latvala in fourth and 19.4 seconds ahead of team-mate Neuville in sixth.

Paddon described his performance on Saturday as an improvement on Friday’s. “It’s been a good day. It’s obviously very pleasing to hold position and extend the gap to our team-mate Thierry behind. I think today’s been an improvement on yesterday. This morning the first two stages went quite well, I struggled a little bit in the middle of the day, just losing the rhythm and feeling of the car. But then we made some changes at midday service and this afternoon gained a little bit of confidence and set some good stage times.

“It’s good to be consistently in the top five stage times and even to set a couple of top two times as well, we’re heading in the right direction. Tomorrow the plan is just to try and hold position, it’s a short day. We’ve got 20 seconds to Thierry behind, so we need to keep a good pace and bring it home.”

Sunday will see the 14.60km Baranowo stage run twice, the second being the Power Stage. Despite just 29.20km stage kilometres separating teams and drivers from the end of the rally, these complicated Polish stages will still demand utmost respect and attention.

Paddon and the HPRG team appreciates the support of their exclusive partners, Hyundai New Zealand, PlaceMakers and Pak n’ Save, along with associate support from Z Energy, Scott Sports, New Balance New Zealand and All About Signs Timaru.

Media release by Kate Gordon-Smith/Relish Communications

Rally Poland: Overall Classification after Day Two
1.         S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 2:12:23.2
2.         A. Mikkelsen / O. Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +5.6
3.         O. Tanak / R. Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +17.6
4.         J.M Latvala / M. Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +19.1
5.         H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +55.7
6.         T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:15.1
7.         R. Kubica / M. Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:29.2
8.         K. Meeke / P. Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:39.4
9.         M. Østberg / J. Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:56.0
10.        D. Sordo / M. Martí (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:17.1

Hayden Paddon’s 2015 WRC schedule with Hyundai Motorsport
WRC Round 2: Sweden, 12-15 February
WRC Round 3: Mexico, 5-8 March
WRC Round 4: Argentina, 23-26 April
WRC Round 5: Portugal, 21-24 May
WRC Round 6: Italy, 11-14 June
WRC Round 7: Poland, 2-5 July
WRC Round 8: Finland, 30 July – 2 August
WRC Round 9: Germany, 20-23 August
WRC Round 10: Australia, 10-13 September
WRC Round 11: France, 1-4 October
WRC Round 12: Spain,  22-25 October
WRC Round 13: Great Britain, 12-15 November


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