New Zealanders Hayden Paddon and John Kennard return to World Rally Championship competition at Rally Sweden, which runs 9-12 February.
The WRC’s only true winter rally, Rally Sweden is one of Paddon’s favourites.
“It’s a rally I really enjoy,” says Paddon following a one day snow test with Hyundai Motorsport in the 2017-spec Hyundai i20 Coupe world rally car.
“I enjoy the conditions in Sweden and the fast nature of the stages which take us across the border into Norway. Last year, we were able to be competitive there.” [Paddon and Kennard secured a history-making second place at the 2016 edition of Rally Sweden. Paddon became the first non-European driver to finish on the podium on the snow rally and was one of only seven non-Scandinavian drivers to finish second in Sweden’s WRC event.]
Paddon adds: “It’s a good rally for us to build the confidence back and the goal is to get back to basics by enjoying the driving again.”
Of his one-day test with the team, Paddon said the feeling with the car was really positive. “A good step from 12 months ago on a snowy road. As this is one of the fastest events of the year, we will really see the benefits of the extra power and aero of the 2017-spec cars here.
About two-thirds of the rally route is new, which Paddon says will mix things up a bit for all 14 WRC drivers. “It’s crucial to write good, new notes on these fast stages, but the weather and amount of snow differs year to year and this can affect the stages more so.”
From the perspective of Blenheim-based Kennard, Sweden’s snowy conditions can be challenging in terms of visibility. “Being faster in the new car, it’s even more important for me to take care with visual references to know where I’m up to with the pace notes,” says Kennard.
Paddon and Kennard run the #4 Hyundai, the same number they’ll carry all season, while team-mates Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul and Dani Sordo/Marc Martí will compete in cars #5 and 6 respectively. The two highest-placed crews from each team will score points for the Manufacturers’ Championship in each event.
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.
Key facts of the 67th Rally Sweden
Dates: 9-12 February 2017
Stages: 18 (331.74 km)
Total distance: 1,415.10 km
WRC competitors: 14
Almost 58% of the rally route is new compared to 2016, including Friday’s Hof-Finnskog test, which has never been used before.
In a bid to enjoy more wintry conditions, the service park moves to a more northerly location in Torsby this season.
The event will get underway on Thursday with a super special stage at the Färjestad Trotting Course in Karlstad, a 1.9km stage popular with spectators, which will be repeated on Saturday evening.
Friday’s itinerary will once again see crews cross over the border into Norway but a mid-leg service will be re-introduced instead of the previous Tyre Fitting Zone.
Saturday’s seven stages will feature two runs through Vargåsen with the Colin’s Crest Award, twice won previously by Hyundai Motorsport (2014/2015) up for grabs for the longest jump.
Sunday’s live TV Power Stage finishes in the Torsby service park.
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