New Zealand’s only world rally pairing, Hayden Paddon and John Kennard, are looking for the positives from what have been three challenging days at their second FIA World Rally Championship event of the year, Rally Mexico.
With just three stages left to run on Sunday (Central Standard Time) to wrap up the León-based rally, the Kiwis hold 20th position overall – not the placing they were hoping for, but one that reflects their never-give-up attitude and continued desire to learn and improve despite the challenges of what’s regarded as one of the toughest events on the WRC calendar.
Paddon and Kennard, from Geraldine and Blenheim respectively, have enjoyed some positives and encountered some issues on each of the three days. Tenth after Thursday night’s opening street stage, a spin on the super special stage dropped them down the standings to 17th overnight. They started Friday with a strong seventh-quickest time to bounce back to tenth overall, but a small mistake on the second test caused a broken suspension upright and meant the pair was out for the day.
“It’s certainly been a trying start to our rally,” Paddon said after Friday’s issues. “We started off alright on the first stage this morning and we were able to set to a reasonably good time, considering we weren’t pushing and the car felt really, really good; certainly the best the car’s ever felt.
“We tried to carry that on to the next stage and just up the ante a little bit, but the road was obviously very slippery and we made a small mistake near the beginning of the stage and lost the rear of the car under braking for a tight left-hander. We simply couldn’t slow down the car enough and touched the bank on the outside which resulted in breaking the upright, so we stopped and tried to see if we could fix it. But the part we needed to fix it, we didn’t have on-board. So that was the end of our day unfortunately, but still some positives. The car’s feeling really good, we’re making some progress.”
Restarting on Saturday in 26th place following the application of time penalties for missing seven of Friday’s eight stages, Paddon took an optimistic approach, talking of the learning opportunities of running first on the road on the heavily-gravelled stages. [The running order is the competitors who restart under Rally 2 regulations then the leader-board contenders in championship order.] Despite the slippery gravel they had to contend with as first car on the road and some issues with brakes and a loss of engine power due to high temperatures, Paddon and Kennard maintained their focus and pushed where they could to finish Saturday in 20th position. Their best stage result was a sixth equal on stage 17.
At the conclusion of Saturday, Paddon said: “It’s obviously been good to get some miles and learn the stages. Okay, we haven’t been where we wanted to be and we’ve suffered a bit this afternoon due to a loss of power due to high temperatures, but nevertheless we’ve tried to press on as best we could with what we’ve got. A big learning exercise; we haven’t been where we want to be but that’s part of the process that we’re going through at the moment. We’ll try and fix a few things on the car tonight and see if we can improve tomorrow.”
Dani Sordo ends Saturday the best-placed of Paddon’s Hyundai Motorsport team-mates, holding a strong fifth position overall. Having competed at the front for much of Friday, Thierry Neuville also had to restart after a puncture caused him to roll the car on Friday afternoon. He continued to push hard and finished Saturday’s eight stages in 11th place.
The event concludes with three stages on Sunday, the day’s schedule opening with the monster 55.82 km Guanajuatito test before concluding with the finish ceremony around 2.30 pm local time.
Paddon and the HPRG team appreciates the support of their exclusive partners, Hyundai New Zealand, PlaceMakers and Pak n’ Save, along with associate support from Z Energy, Scott Sports, New Balance New Zealand and All About Signs Timaru.
Hayden Paddon’s 2015 WRC schedule with Hyundai Motorsport
WRC Round 2: Sweden, 12-15 February
WRC Round 3: Mexico, 5-8 March
WRC Round 4: Argentina, 23-26 April
WRC Round 5: Portugal, 21-24 May
WRC Round 6: Italy, 11-14 June
WRC Round 7: Poland, 2-5 July
WRC Round 8: Finland, 30 July – 2 August
WRC Round 9: Germany, 20-23 August
WRC Round 10: Australia, 10-13 September
WRC Round 11: France, 1-4 October
WRC Round 12: Spain, 22-25 October
WRC Round 13: Great Britain, 12-15 November