Kiwi rally stars Hayden Paddon and John Kennard have moved into fifth position after the first two days of action at ADAC Rallye Deutschland, having worked hard on their own, ever-improving performance on tarmac and contended with changeable weather conditions.
Driving the #20 New Generation i20 WRC car in the ninth round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship, the New Zealanders had an eventful day on Friday (CEST) during a relatively short five-stage leg. Paddon and Kennard finished the day in eighth position and 1 min, 45 sec off leader Andres Mikkelsen.
Describing Friday’s competition as “lively”, Paddon said he’d been learning the hard way. “While trying to find the limits [of driving on tarmac], we’ve had two spins, broke the left rear when we hit a ditch, then we had a huge moment in one stage where we were lucky to even keep it on the road. We’ve lost a lot of time, but when we had no problems the speed and the splits have been quite okay, so this is encouraging. There’s still a lot to play for in this rally and we’re learning all the time. When you’re trying to drive fast, you’ve got to find the limits and we certainly found those today. A top five is still possible so we’ll stay focused on this and try and have a good, clean day tomorrow.”
Saturday’s leg is the longest of this year’s Rallye Deutschland and saw a mixture of wet, damp and dry conditions throughout the day which created tough choices for drivers about which tyres to use. Paddon and Kennard secured their best stage finish – fifth – of the morning on the testing 40.8km of the iconic, bumpy Panzerplatte military area – a stage which also saw French pairing Stéphane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau crash heavily, causing the remainder of the stage to be cancelled.
Of Saturday morning, Paddon said: “It was a difficult morning with the weather and trying to get the right tyre choice which we got wrong in both situations. But other than that, most of it’s coming down to a real lack of confidence in the grip and the conditions. It feels very foreign in the car, so that’s something we’ve got to work on. You’ve got to be patient and let the feeling come, otherwise that’s when mistakes will happen. Other than that, it was a clean morning, but we certainly want to make some improvements for the afternoon and see if we can try and get further up the leader-board.”
Paddon and Kennard had a more consistent afternoon with two fifth fastest and two sixth fastest stage times while some of the stages were drier than expected despite earlier heavy rain and others were very wet, again making the choice of hard or soft compound tyres, or a combination of both, critical.
Wrapping up Saturday, Paddon said. “A tough day, obviously it’s good to get through unscathed with no problems. To get back into the top five as per our goal, but it certainly hasn’t been easy. The speed’s not quite where we want it to be. The changing weather conditions today, the rain and the mud have made it very hard to get confidence, to feel the grip in the car. When you’re unfamiliar on this surface it’s just takes that much more to get used to it. For sure, we need to work on the speed. If the conditions improve tomorrow, then that will give us a chance to test for the future tarmac rallies. Hopefully to bring home a top five result is good in terms of points and a result, but in terms of outright performance and driving, we still need to work a lot on this.”
In a relatively lonely fifth on the leader-board, Paddon and Kennard are 2min 56.5sec behind Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Thierry Neuville in fourth, but hold a lead of more than 30sec over Mads Ostberg in sixth. Neuville is in a close fight with team-mate Dani Sordo in third and Mikkelsen in second with just four seconds separating this trio of drivers while Sébastien Ogier leads.
The rally concludes on Sunday (CEST) with 59.26 competitive kilometres and four stages, with Hyundai Motorsport aiming to get at least one crew on the podium
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.