Hayden Paddon is looking forward to tackling the gravel stages of this weekend’s Wales Rally GB with co-driver John Kennard, saying the forestry stages remind him of similar rally stages at home.
The New Zealanders head into the penultimate round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship in fourth position in their respective drivers’ and co-drivers’ championship points-tables. With the final two rounds of this year’s WRC – Wales and Australia – being run on the gravel surface that Paddon favours, they could still secure second place in the standings behind Sebastien Ogier who has already secured the 2016 championship title. The pair are also more familiar with the UK and Australian events than many others, having competed in Wales five times previously and four times in Australia.
“I have always enjoyed Wales Rally GB a lot,” says Paddon following a couple of days testing with Hyundai Motorsport to prepare for this event and further development of the team’s 2017 WRC contender. “It reminds me a lot of some of the forestry roads we get in New Zealand. Traditionally it’s always a wet, muddy rally, but this year – being run a little earlier than usual – could be a little different.”
Paddon says: “Testing has gone well – I really feel like we are in a good place with this year’s car on gravel now. It’s just a pity we couldn’t show that at the last event in Spain during Friday’s gravel stages, due to technical issues.”
At present, the long-range forecast for the 27-30 October rally is showing warmer and dryer weather than normal.
“How that will affect the rally and stages is an unknown as it’s not normal, so we will assess as the rally progresses.
“Not only do we have to be fast in Wales, but we must also look after the car as there is no mid-leg service on any of the three days, just a tyre regroup.
“We want to be challenging near the front again. This is a rally I have always enjoyed, but we have never been able to put together a good result here, something we would definitely like to change this year.”
Hyundai Motorsport has entered three New Generation i20 WRCs in Wales Rally GB, which will feature the championship’s first stage in England since 1999. Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo will return for the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team in the #3 and #4 cars respectively. Paddon and Kennard, who finished fifth in Wales last year, will compete in the #20 Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team entry.
The 22-stage Wales Rally GB will be run over a total of 332.87 km with a huge 962.87 km of touring stages which sees competitors travel south from the Deeside service park on the northern coast to stages in the middle of Wales and back each day. The rally gets underway on Friday with an itinerary that comprises over half of the total distance with 178km of challenging gravel stages. Stage names like Hafren and Sweet Lamb are familiar to rally aficionados, however they’ll be run in reverse direction this year, while Saturday also features stages that have not appeared on the rally since 1997. The unpredictable early winter British weather will almost certainly play a part with soft compound tyres needed if conditions turn cold and wet.
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