Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are still pushing for a podium finish from their current strong fourth place after two days of World Rally Championship action in Wales.
Like their fellow competitors in Wales Rally GB, the New Zealanders had to contend with rain, mud and fog on Friday (UK time) while rally leader Sebastien Ogier enjoyed the best of the conditions, which worsened with the passage of every car. Paddon and Kennard finished the day in fourth place, despite driving the final of the day’s eight stages with a puncture, with a gap of just 3.8 seconds separating them to third-placed Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville. The event is unusual in that as there is no mid-leg service on any of the three days, just a tyre regroup on Friday.
Of Friday, Paddon said: “It was a difficult day. We expected dry conditions but it’s been pretty typical – wet, muddy with a lot of fog so it’s been really hard to gauge the grip and read the grip level. We struggled a little bit; it’s not my ideal type of conditions that I like to drive in, but it’s a big improvement over where we were here last year. We’re not here to finish fourth or fifth – we want to give it everything and try and get on the podium.”
Saturday bought more fog and seven greasy gravel stages in the Snowdonia Mountains as well as a 1.8km stage around Cholmondeley Castle, the WRC’s first stage in England since 1999. The day’s schedule did not include a remote tyre-fitting zone so crews had to negotiate almost 100km of special stages paying careful attention to their tyres and car.
Paddon and Kennard consolidated their fourth place, while pushing to try and keep in podium contention. Paddon said he’d struggled with confidence in the car or his driving during the morning. “I just need to find the rhythm. Okay, we haven’t dropped too much time but we definitely need to pull finger, find my mojo and push on.”
By day’s end, he said: “It’s been not a bad day. Okay, obviously we’re wanting to try and get on the podium. We’ve been trying everything we can; we just haven’t quite had the pace today to Thierry. But the feeling in these conditions hasn’t been 100 per cent and I haven’t been able to drive my natural way – we’re trying the best with what we’ve got, trying to learn as much as we can as we go along so it’s a big improvement over this time last year. We’re still close, we’re still within 12 seconds and there’s a long way to go. With six stages on Sunday all we can do is keep the pressure on – we’ve got to push on and find some more time.”
Crews tackle three different stages on Sunday morning, each run twice, to wrap up this year’s Wales Rally GB.
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