Hayden Paddon has punched above his weight to finish fifth on the Rally of Sweden, the second round of the World Rally Championship, early this morning New Zealand time in the second of the two Hyundai i20 WRC factory team cars.
It is his highest ever finishing position in a WRC event.
With Blenheim co-driver John Kennard, Paddon was behind the wheel of Dani Sordo’s car after the Spaniard injured himself mountain biking. Geraldine’s Paddon had to adapt to the car’s set up and although he was able to change some of the componentry to suit his driving style, he also had to change his driving style to suit the car.
Even more incredibly the four day event was only the second time he has rallied on snow and ice having previously started the event in 2012. For the first two days the Kiwi pair were starting 14th on the road as the seeding order was determined by places in the driver’s world championship after last month’s Monte Carlo Rally which Paddon did not contest.
As a result he got worse road conditions than the drivers he was battling for position inside the top ten. And after 308 kms of stages in very tricky conditions in slushy ice and snow, Paddon and Kennard came away with their highest ever place in a WRC event.
“It’s an absolutely fantastic result,” said Paddon at the finish at Karlstad in central Sweden. “I’m, very happy. We kept our nose clean for three days and that proved to be the right strategy. It’s certainly good for the manufacturer’s championship.”
Paddon said it had been important to gain experience in the demanding winter conditions.
“After finishing Friday’s stages in sixth overall, we’ve looked at cementing that position and building up a buffer. We have had to work a lot on adapting the driving style to the set-up of the car and to the special requirements of these stages.”
“I am pleased with how we have tackled this rally and the improvements we’ve made. We’ve definitely had some good moments – as well as some struggles – but to finish in the top five is a really good result. I think we’ve achieved all we could.”
With his Hyundai team-mate Belgian Thierry Neuville finishing a close second to Sebastian Ogier after a titanic fight over the last 3 stages, Hyundai are now a clear second in Manufacturer’s World Championship.
“Hayden has also registered his first top five finish with the team – in his first WRC event of the season – a highly commendable result,” said Michel Nandan the Team Principal for Hyundai Motorsport.
Paddon and Kennard rose to fifth on the first stage of the day after starting the morning sixth when Norwegian Mads Ostberg, put his car off the road into a snow bank.
“It’s a great start to the season,” said Paddon. “We still have a lot to work on and for some reason our pace notes didn’t work quite as well as the first two days. But I’m looking forward to getting back on gravel when we go to Mexico next month.”
Paddon’s fifth place finish has moved him into eighth place in the driver’s championship, which will mean a better starting position for the Central American event.
Rally Sweden, Round 2, World Rally Championship.
1, S Ogier, J Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo WRC) 2 hrs 55 mins 30.5 secs;
2, T Neuville, N Gilsoul (Hyundai i20WRC) 22.214.171.124;
3, A Mikkelsen, O Floene (Volkswagen Polo WRC) 126.96.36.199;
4, O Tanak, R Molder (Ford Fiesta WRC) 188.8.131.52;
5, H Paddon, J Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2.59.02.0;
6, E Evans, D Barrit (Ford Fiesta WRC) 184.108.40.206.
Manufacturer’s Championship. – 1, Volkswagen, 68; 2, Hyundai, 55; 3, Ford, 32; 4, Citroen 20.
Driver’s Championship. – 1, Ogier, 53; 2=, Neuville, Mikkelsen, 30; 4, J-M Latvala, 19; 5=, M Ostberg, Evans, 14; 7, Tanak, 12; 8=, Paddon, C Meeke, 10.