Hayden Paddon and John Kennard have ended their debut season in the FIA World Rally Championship contesting a Hyundai i20 WRC car in the points on the season’s final event, Wales Rally GB.
“Today’s conditions were very slippery and we were not prepared to take any risks and, instead, bring the car home in one piece,” Paddon said about the six short stages which concluded the Welsh rally where muddy, slippery stage conditions were among the most challenging of the season.
Paddon and Kennard started the final day of the three-day rally in 11th position overall and ended their sixth WRC event with Hyundai Motorsport with a fighting finish, chasing down a top ten result. Delivering consistent times inside the top nine, the Kiwis were well-placed to take advantage of Henning Solberg’s fuel issues and move up the leader-board into tenth, in the end just 5.2 seconds from ninth place overall. This was the fifth consecutive event on which Paddon has earned WRC drivers’ championship points.
“Obviously it’s just a short day to finish the rally and finish the championship, so to get back in the points after Friday’s issues is a small bonus. This rally is completely different to the other five we’ve done this year. The grip changes made it one of the most difficult at times so it’s been a rally of ups and downs for us; certainly a big learning experience and we were able to set some good times especially on Saturday,” Paddon said, referring to his best result of the rally on special stage 12 where he shared the second-equal fastest time with Mads Ostberg.
“Overall we’re reasonably happy; we’ve learnt a lot from this weekend and learnt a lot from the whole season. We haven’t put a scratch on the car and completed virtually every stage that we’ve done on the six rallies. Our objective in all rallies this year has been to learn, to gain experience and Wales Rally GB has been no different. With that in mind, I think we’ve accomplished a lot and it’s a nice way for the team to close the first season in WRC.
“My sincere thanks to the whole Hyundai Motorsport team for giving us the amazing opportunity and all the help and support throughout the year.
“All in all, it’s been a successful campaign. It’s put us in the spotlight, if you like, to maybe have a couple of options open for us for next season. That’s great moving forward so we’re really looking forward to next year. We know we can be more competitive when we come back. We’ve gained a lot of experience this year and that’s going to help us no end.”
Paddon’s Hyundai Motorsport team-mates also finished the challenging, muddy event with Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul in the #7 Hyundai i20 WRC consolidating a hard-fought fourth position by taking second place and an extra two points on the power stage, and Juho Hänninen and Tomi Tuominen coming home 30th in the #8 Hyundai i20 WRC.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “We have met our targets of a three car finish, and worked very hard to make improvements to the Hyundai i20 WRC cars over the weekend. These conditions are unlike any we have faced during the season so it is a useful addition to our learning curve. As the final rally of 2014, we have brought our learning season to a successful conclusion. I am personally very proud of everything our young team has achieved this year. From the debut at Monte Carlo to our 1-2 in Germany and this weekend in Wales, we have made a lot of progress with many highlights. In some regards, we have exceeded our targets but most importantly we have built up a huge bank of experience, information and knowledge which will be crucial to us as we prepare our second season. We will sit down and reflect on this complete season but the team and drivers have performed fantastically well all year and I think we can all be very happy with what we’ve accomplished in such a short space of time.”
Earlier this week Paddon told wrc.com “We’ll definitely be in the world championship next year in a World Rally Car, but there are a lot of details to be sorted.”
Paddon and the HPRG team appreciates the support of their exclusive partners VINZ, PlaceMakers, Pak n’ Save and Hyundai New Zealand, along with associate support from Z Energy, Scott Sports and New Balance.