As I write this we are sitting in Frankfurt airport about to board the big bird back home to NZ – and time to reflect on a successful debut season with Hyundai Motorsport. The weekend’s championship finale, Wales Rally GB was certainly a rally full of ups and downs but most importantly the lessons learnt will help us as we continue progressing forward.
The rally started difficultly, with a lot of rain in the build up to the event making the water soaked roads turn to a slippery mud bath. To make it more interesting the grip levels were constantly changing from corner to corner which make it very hard to judge the correct braking points and speeds.
We got off to a slow start on Friday morning as I was expecting the roads to be more slippery than they were and mentally I didn’t adjust quick enough. It has been a few years since I last done a wet/muddy rally and it took some time to get back in the rhythm. Unfortunately, in the afternoon power steering failure prevented us from improving, which cost us around 1 and a half minutes. We were able to make a patch up job to get us through the final 2 stages of the day, but the time loss was already too substantial from driving more than 1 stage with no power steering. It’s fair to say, I did not need to do a gym session on Friday night.
The rest of the rally was about improving and gaining experience for next year. Saturday was a good day for us and we were regularly setting times in the top 6 within a group of drivers from 1st-8th that were separated by only 4-8 seconds per stage. We even recorded a 2nd fastest time on the Dyfant stage – as this was one of the only stages I had previous experience on from our last visit to the rally in 2012. To end up back in the points in 10th was a nice bonus, but on the final day we were not prepared to take unnecessary risks to fight for the minor places in tricky conditions – instead we opted to bring the car home in one piece to cap off the year.
It has been a successful year and we achieved everything we set out to do – to show progression and mix it with both our teammates and leading drivers. To consider we started the year at 1.75sec per km from the leader and 0.75 from Thierry Neuville and for the last 2-3 rallys we have constantly reduced that gap to 0.5-0.6 to the leaders and on average 0.1 to Thierry, shows the progression we have made. The best bit is, there is A LOT more to come and we have seen this year firsthand that how much experience and seat time counts! I’m sure when we return to these same events next year, we can take another step and start to string some good results together.
A huge thank you to everyone that has made this year happen, the directors of HPRG, Katie, all our supporters and fans and of course our partners VINZ, PlaceMakers, PaknSave, Scott, New Balance and Z Energy. It has been an amazing experience and both John and I wouldn’t have had this opportunity without all your support and believe. But the journey has only just started, and while our plans are not yet confirmed for 2015, it promises to be an exciting year that I am already looking forward to.
Also, a huge thanks to our Hyundai Motorsport team. They are a great bunch of people that helped me a lot to develop and of course gave us the opportunity to drive the i20 WRC. We made a lot of friends and look forward to seeing them again soon.
Now its back home to NZ, for a 2 week National PlaceMakers Roadshow. All details can be found on www.facebook.com/haydenpaddonwrc or www.placemakers.co.nz/hayden with what areas we are visiting, but we will have a rally simulator set up with a tonne of prizes and team gear up for grabs. Look forward to seeing some of you there.
That’s all for now, but thank you again everyone and we will keep you updated of any information of our 2015 plans as soon as we know more.