Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard head to Rally Australia focussed putting together their perfect performance as they contest the last round of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship.
“We learnt a valuable lesson here last year,” says Paddon, “where we put too much pressure on ourselves for a particular result and we didn’t perform well. So this year the focus is on putting together the perfect performance and that’s what we’ve worked on with our preparation.”
The 17-20 November rally is one Paddon enjoys due to the amount of support he and Kennard receive from Australian and Kiwi spectators. “Just competing so close to home and having so much support here is what makes the event special,” he says. “Also the long 50km Nambucca stage is one of my favourite stages of the year so I always look forward to this.”
Most of the rally route around host town Coffs Harbour, New South Wales is the same or very similar to last year with Paddon describing two general types of stages. “There are heavily gravelled public roads – closed for the event, of course – which are not too dissimilar to stages we have on several New Zealand events, and then there are soft, slippery stages through rainforest which have a completely different nature.”
Currently fourth in the WRC drivers’ championship, just three points behind Andreas Mikkelsen in third place, Paddon will be running fourth on the road for Friday’s and Saturday’s 255km of stages.
“There will be significant sweeping on these first two full days of the rally, so fourth is not a bad place considering the guys in front of us we will be chasing. However, Jari Matti Latvala, being sixth on the road, will be the one to watch.”
Of his fourth position in the drivers’ championship and the possibility of finishing higher in the standings, Paddon says: “We will let the championship take care of itself. Of course it would be amazing to finish in the top three, but the focus is on our performance and letting the rally and overall championship result follow that.”
Rally Australia also marks last round of competition for the current spec Hyundai i20 world rally car with Paddon and Hyundai team-mates Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo having been working with the team in recent months to develop the 2017-spec car ready for next year’s competition.
“The New Generation i20 WRC is a car that has brought the team a lot of success in a short space of time,” says Paddon. “So we would like to give it a nice send-off, as I’m sure our team-mates also want to.”
After confirming second place in the WRC manufacturers’ championship at Wales Rally GB with a fourth consecutive podium, Hyundai Motorsport hopes to finish its most competitive season in style with a podium finish in Australia.
While there was no pre-event test for this rally, gravel setup specifications will be well sorted from earlier events. Paddon and Kennard join nine other WRC crews to complete reconnaissance over the 312.98km of special stages on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday morning they get their full speed shakedown runs in their rally car on a dedicated stage before the official start ceremony in the afternoon. The rally action gets underway at 8am Friday (Australian eastern standard time) heading south of Coffs Harbour for 11 stages. Saturday’s route covers the greatest distance with 135.19km of stages, including two runs of the 50.88km Nambucca, one of the longest stages of the season. Sunday’s action is north of Coffs Harbour for four stages with the final run through the popular 6.44km Wedding Bells marking the final stage of the 2016 championship.
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.
by Kate Gordon-Smith/Relish Communications