Hayden Paddon and John Kennard head to next week’s Wales Rally GB in their Hyundai i20 WRC car with a boost in confidence following their maiden stage win in the FIA World Rally Championship at the recent Spanish round.
The combination of the WRC stage win plus a number of top four stage times at the 24-26 October running of Rally de Espana is encouraging for Paddon who says he’s feeling really comfortable in the Hyundai i20 WRC car on gravel.
“The more time I spend in the car the better it gets. We now have a good setup that allows me to push and the car is easy to drive. Having said that, there is always a lot of work to do and we have to keep working hard, but we are definitely heading in the right direction.”
Paddon and the Hyundai Motorsport N team were quick to depart Spain’s sunny climes and hit the wet, cold, gravel roads of Wales to test the cars in gravel setup, with Paddon saying afterward that more good progress was made.
“Since Australia we have started to go in our own direction with differentials and suspension, and as I tend to drive the car straighter than our team-mates, I am asking the car to do different things. However we are restricted by the regulations on the amount of testing we can do compared to the team’s number one and two drivers so this means it’s a slow process.”
The 2014 Welsh event marks the fifth time the Kiwis have competed there, with Paddon having contested his first international rally in the Welsh forests back in 2007. Wales Rally GB will be the sixth event the New Zealander has contested for the brand-new Hyundai Motorsport team on its debut WRC season and he’s keeping the goal straightforward – to secure a good overall result.
“The last few events we have been able to set some good stage times. We would like to string that all together to go for a good result in this event. The weather can play a big part and our road position on day one will either be an advantage, if dry, or disadvantage if wet. But I think we can be up amongst the top five and that’s what we will push for.”
Paddon notes: “Last time we did the event in 2012 it was based in mid-south Wales, where now it is more in the north where we don’t have as much experience on those specific stages.
“Having said that, a wet Welsh forestry road is not too dissimilar to a wet Berwick forestry during Rally Otago at home, so we’re certainly comfortable in wet gravel conditions. Generally the roads are still very fast which suits us and, while the conditions will most likely be wet and muddy, the grip levels are consistent.”
Fourteen WRC crews have entered Wales Rally GB, running 13 to 16 November and featuring a revised format with a greater emphasis on north Wales. Friday’s opening leg takes in classic central Wales on forestry roads and covers almost half the rally’s competitive distance – 145.78 kilometres – with only a 15-minute remote service. Saturday’s action is closer to the Deeside service park with most of the 113.74 competitive kilometres will be familiar to 2013 competitors while being used in the opposite direction. A short Sunday leg of just 46.12 kilometres concludes the 2014 WRC season. The main challenges are that the fast, tree-lined forest tracks can be made difficult by muddy and slippery conditions due to unpredictable weather which may bring rain, snow, ice and fog.
“We will be using the soft compound tyre in GB, essential for the cold, wet conditions. Generally the car will generate a bit more power in the cooler temps, but keeping things such as brakes and tyres with some temperature in them before the start of stages is very important.”
With sunrise around 7.45 am and sunset around 4.15 pm, the event also features more driving in the dark as the late Saturday afternoon tests increases night-time distance from 24 to 36 kilometres.
Paddon and the HPRG team appreciates the support of their exclusive partners VINZ, PlaceMakers, Pak n’ Save and Hyundai New Zealand along with associate support from Z Energy, Scott Sports and New Balance.