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Kiwi rally star Hayden Paddon acknowledges he hasn’t had the best start to the year, but he and co-driver John Kennard are looking for some improving momentum as they return to Argentina, the scene of their history-making first World Rally Championship victory last year.

“It is one of the roughest events on the calendar, and depending on the weather/conditions, this will influence the rally a lot,” says Paddon of the 27-30 April running of Rally Argentina. 

“Looking after the car is also key and while it would be nice to get the taste of champagne again, we head into this rally after some thorough preparation to push hard. We know we can be competitive, but the competition is much closer this year, so, as always, we will be giving it a good go. The focus is never on others’ expectations: it’s about getting some momentum and confidence back, and if we can do that, the results will flow.”

Paddon heads to the all-gravel South American event with his Hyundai i20 Coupe world rally car following a successful two-day test on gravel prior to the previous tarmac WRC event in Corsica where he finished sixth. “We confirmed our gravel settings for the car and made some improvements to better suit my style. It was a good test.”

Paddon and Kennard have both been back in New Zealand since Corsica, taking the long way around from Europe to Argentina. 

Paddon celebrated his 30th birthday with family in Wanaka, but didn’t stint on his training. “It’s always good to return home, even if only for a week this time. We have been pushing hard with prep for Argentina, both physically and mentally.”

Based in the lakeside resort of Villa Carlos Paz, 700km north-west of Buenos Aires, Rally Argentina features 18 special stages, totalling 357.59 competitive kilometres and a massive total distance of 1417.98km.

“The route has much the same stages as last year, so this gives us confidence as they are stages we enjoy and have good information from,” Paddon says. “After last year’s result, naturally it’s nice to go back to this event and that success gives us more confidence, particularly on the gravel surface with which I’m most familiar.”

Kennard is also looking forward to the hugely popular Argentinean event. 

“I’m just happy to be back on gravel, after a very tough rally in Corsica, and to be heading into a series of five events that we really like,” says Kennard, who announced a month ago that he’ll step down from his WRC role after July’s Rally Finland. “Argentina is always a great place to rally, with a mix of faster, slower, rougher and less rough stages, and of course, as the scene of our first WRC victory last year, as well as in the production category win in 2011, is certainly a special place to return to for one of my last WRC events with Hayden.”

Paddon and Kennard will start the first day eighth on the road in the #4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, based on their current championship position. Saturday and Sunday will see WRC competitors running in reverse rally classification.

New Zealand’s rally star Hayden Paddon didn’t achieve the results he was looking for in the Tour de Corse, but with a sixth-place finish and a move into eighth place on the drivers’ championship points-table, there were several positives to take from the fourth round of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship which wrapped up on Sunday (CEST

“It’s been a learning weekend for us, but we have to find the positives,” said Paddon at the end of the French WRC round dubbed the rally of 10,000 corners. “Even if the end result doesn’t show it, we have been competing closer to the front this weekend and shown an improvement from last year’s Tour de Corse.”

With co-driver John Kennard alongside, Paddon finished Friday’s opening four stages in seventh position overall. Damp patches made grip unreliable and mud was pulled out onto the road as all competitors strove for the fastest lines. At day’s end, Paddon felt he was making good steps forward with his driving, but was confused as to why he couldn’t produce the stage times he wanted. “We’ll sit down with the engineers to look at the data and see if we can make some improvements to setup. Of course, we want to be up higher than seventh, so we’ll see if we can try and improve on that.”

Saturday’s itinerary comprises 132 competitive kilometres in just four special stages. With the demise of rally leader Kris Meeke, the Kiwis moved up one spot on the leader-board to finish the day in sixth overall, but were essentially in no man’s land with a 41 second deficit to Craig Breen in fifth place. They were fourth quickest on the first run through the day’s second stage – their best stage result of the rally.

Paddon said: “We’re trying some different things with the car setup and it hasn’t really felt like that’s worked this morning, but still good information to take forward. We’re just in a position in the rally where we haven’t got a whole lot to gain, but we can lose, so it’s just a matter of being sensible and get the car to the finish.”

With just two stages on Sunday morning to conclude the rally, Paddon’s focus was simply on bringing the car home safely – when several other WRC competitors did not – and scoring a few more points, which he did. Team-mate Thierry Neuville secured his first WRC victory of the season, with the third Hyundai Motorsport i20 Coupe WRC in the hands of Dani Sordo coming home a very close third. 

“There’s obviously still plenty to learn but we’re making progress,” said Paddon. “We must now look ahead to the next rally, the start of a run of five on gravel. We should have a good road position for Argentina so I’m looking to feature more prominently in the next events. Congratulations to Thierry and Nicolas – and everyone back at Alzenau – for the victory.”

New Zealand’s rally star Hayden Paddon has a clear focus as the FIA World Rally Championship heads to the French Mediterranean island of Corsica for round four of the 2017 season – to continue improving his performance on tarmac

With co-driver John Kennard alongside, Paddon wants to set a good pace in his Hyundai i20 Coupe world rally car in the Tour de Corse. 

“We want to be there to back up our team-mates Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo who will be in a good position to fight at the front,” Paddon says following a one-day tarmac test in the 2017-spec Hyundai, and a hard-fought second place last weekend at Rallye Sanremo at the wheel of the New Generation i20 R5 with Seb Marshall in the co-driver’s seat. 

“We need to focus on improving and getting ever more comfortable, but of course we also lean on our team-mates to help us learn more on this surface.”

The one-day test helped Paddon get more used to the ’17 car on dry asphalt. “We have not spent much time in the car on tarmac, so it was valuable seat time.”

This is the third time Paddon and Kennard have contested the iconic Tour de Corse, the rally of 10,000 corners, which features classic narrow, twisty mountain asphalt roads across the whole island. The rally comprises just 10 special stages, ranging from 10.42km to 53.78km in length. The total number of competitive kilometres – 316.76 – is not dissimilar to other WRC events which typically feature 17-18 shorter stages. 

“It’s a nice rally, flowing stages and obviously very twisty in places, but one of the more enjoyable tarmac rallies. The itinerary is much the same as last year, so in that sense it’s a little more relaxed for us returning to a rally that is mostly unchanged and we know what to expect. The long stages coupled with the faster cars will mean that tyre management will be key.”

Last year the Tour de Corse ran in late September, so this year’s April timing brings it into the European spring, rather than early autumn. “It seems to be a bit cooler compared to September but the weather seems reasonably settled and shouldn’t affect things too much.”

The Corsican terrain delivers its own challenges on Kennard’s side of the car. 

“The twisty roads obviously make it a slower rally, but the corners are totally relentless and all look much the same, so it's never an easy event to read notes on,” says Blenheim-based Kennard. 

“Combined with the physicality added by being on tarmac in the 2017-spec cars, it makes for a tough test of man and machine.”

Paddon and Kennard will start the first day ninth on the road in the #4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, based on their current championship position. Saturday and Sunday will see WRC competitors running in reverse rally classification.

Key facts of Tour de Corse

Dates: 6-9 April 2017

Stages: 10 (316.76 competitive km)

Total distance: 1082.20km

WRC competitors: 11

Location: Bastia, Corsica

Rally notes

  • The first pure asphalt round of the year, breaking up a series of seven travel rallies.
  • Service park is at Bastia Airport in the north-east, but the west coast town of Ajaccio hosts Thursday evening’s start ceremony. 
  • Friday features two stages near the island’s capital that are tackled twice, with no service, just a mid-leg tyre change.
  • The itinerary is identical to 2016, but several stages have been shortened to reduce the competitive distance to 316.76km. 
  • The longest stage is on Sunday – a monster 53.78km.

 

History-making Kiwi rally co-driver John Kennard will step down from his role as Hayden Paddon’s co-driver in the FIA World Rally Championship after July’s Rally Finland.

Kennard and Paddon have enjoyed a 12-year partnership which has taken the now famous Kiwi pair from domestic rally competition to the heights of world rallying.

Rally Finland is a very special event for Marlborough’s Kennard who first competed there alongside his now-business partner Brent Rawstron in the 1985 1000 Lakes Rally (now Rally Finland). Rawstron and Kennard came home as the top non-Scandinavian privateers in that rally, so it’s fitting for the oldest WRC co-driver to conclude his role as Paddon’s co-driver at his favourite rally.

During his time in world rally competition, Kennard made his own mark, particularly in the years alongside Paddon. He competed in New Zealand as a driver back in the late ‘70s, but moved to the co-driver’s seat in 1985, claiming his first WRC podium alongside Kiwi driver Malcolm Stewart at Rally New Zealand in 1988. Kennard has also worked for WRC teams, firstly as team co-ordinator for Mitsubishi Japan, a similar role with Prodrive’s Subaru World Rally Team and then a year managing Mitsubishi’s rally programme in USA. Having commenced his Marlborough vineyard business with Rawstron in 2003, the introduction to Paddon in 2005 bought Kennard back into the sport competitively. Together, Paddon and Kennard won the New Zealand Rally Championship in 2008 and 2009. The year 2010 saw the pair part of the Pirelli Star Driver Programme, securing third in the Production World Rally Championship. Four straight PWRC wins the following year secured the championship title for the Kiwis – a history-making achievement in New Zealand motorsport as the first Asia-Pacific driver/co-driver combination to ever win a world rally championship title. In 2013, the pair secured their third NZRC title, then in April last year Paddon and Kennard again made history with their victory at Rally Argentina as the first New Zealanders to ever win a round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Kennard says: “After 12 years as Hayden’s co-driver, it will be hard to lever myself out of that Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC seat for the last time. But our deal has always been that I help Hayden in the most effective way possible and to have been his co-driver for so long, has been incredibly fulfilling and rewarding. When we first got in a car together, in 2006, the dream of winning the WRC seemed so far away, but now, as we push to achieve that ultimate goal, it's timely that we re-arrange roles for maximum effect and to help complete the quest we’re all on – to bring the WRC Championship trophy home to New Zealand.”

Paddon pays tribute to Kennard who has played a huge role in the team.

Paddon says: “Obviously, John has played a huge part in my career since we started working together at the end of 2005. We have achieved so much together and it has been quite a journey of highs and lows. It’s certainly sad to end the partnership, but we have been discussing over the last couple of years when was the best for both of us to make the transition with an eye towards the future.

“I can’t thank John enough for everything he’s contributed in these 12 years, but this is not the end. He will stay involved, helping me behind the scenes and, as he has played an important part in the journey so far, it’s only natural that he remains a part of it.”

An announcement regarding Paddon’s new co-driver from Finland onwards will be made within a few days.


Hayden Paddon takes a number of positives from the fifth place result he and co-driver John Kennard secured at Rally Mexico, but New Zealand’s top rally driver is striving for much more in future events in this year’s FIA World Rally Championship.

Following the final two stages on Sunday (CST), Paddon said: “It’s certainly been a difficult weekend. Okay, P5 is still some okay points and we can take some positives away from that, but it’s certainly not the performance level we wanted. Obviously, we want more and it feels like we’re in a bit of a trough at the moment. On the brighter side, I’m sure we’re going to come out of it soon and, when we do then we can get the results that we expect and that we know we can achieve. We’ve just got to keep working hard and not give up.”

The 9-12 March running of Rally Mexico delivered challenges for the Kiwis virtually from the get-go. Thursday night’s opening super special stages in Mexico City started well as Paddon blasted through the 1.57km extra-super special street stage with the third quickest time on the first run. A ninth quickest time on the second run gave him fifth place overall. However the incredible atmosphere of the opening extravaganza in the world-renowned Zócalo Square had a downside – the 400km journey to return the rally cars and team personnel to host city Leon was halted for six hours when an accident involving non-rally vehicles closed the motorway. The cars and personnel arrived in Leon 90 minutes before Friday’s first scheduled stage, so this and the following stage were cancelled by organisers.

With the rally proper underway with the 4pm running of the 54.9km El Chocolate, Paddon and Kennard delivered a strong performance with the third quickest time. Another solid time through stage five saw the Kiwis comfortably in third place overall behind defending world rally champion Sebastien Ogier and rally leader Kris Meeke. But the frustrations were to continue when a technical problem slowed Paddon and Kennard on the first of the three evening  super specials – the pair lost a minute on their rivals and dropped to seventh overall. Technical issues also affected the Hyundais of team-mates Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville.

Wrapping up Friday, Paddon said: “The rally [proper] got off to not a bad start, sitting in top three position. A little bit of a surprise as we were struggling with a few little issues, but the times were still not bad, so there was a bit of confidence to take away from that. But unfortunately, a technical problem struck down the three cars in the team which, at the end of the day, cost us a couple of minutes. Nevertheless, we’re still here. The guys are going to work hard overnight to try and rectify the problem so we can come back out tomorrow. We’ve seen the conditions are very tough; it’s going to be very hard. A long day tomorrow; we’re still right in this and we’ll solve things tonight to come back out fighting tomorrow.”

On Saturday, a string of consistent times in six longer gravel stages and three short super specials saw the Kiwis move into and consolidate fifth place.

“Being in the top five is a good position for points, but the performance hasn’t been where we wanted it to be,” said Paddon on Saturday evening. “We struggled in the morning with an early starting position on the road so we had a lot of loose gravel to contend with and this afternoon we struggled with the balance in the car. We’re just trying some things – the car was feeling very good in the morning, but the performance wasn’t there. We tried to try find a bit more speed this afternoon, but it just hasn’t gelled. We’ll sit down tonight to look at the data. I expect more than this, so we need to improve.”

Sunday’s itinerary comprised just two stages. “We struggled with a lot of little things going on – some technical issues today prevented us pushing for any power stage points,” said Paddon of Sunday.

Paddon’s team Hyundai Motorsport claimed its first podium finish of the season with Thierry Neuville clinching third as well as the power stage win and its five bonus points. Team-mate Dani Sordo secured eighth place in Mexico to be the top-placed Hyundai driver on the drivers’ championship leader-board in fourth.

The WRC moves back to Europe for the fourth round of the season, and the tarmac tests of Tour de Corse, which moves to an earlier spring date – 6-9 April, just six months after its 2016 edition in which Hyundai Motorsport finished in second place.

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.

 

2017 FIA World Rally Championship, Round 3, Rally Mexico

Final Overall Classification  

1

K. Meeke

P. Nagle

Citroën C3 WRC

3:22:04.6

2

S. Ogier

J. Ingrassia

Ford Fiesta WRC

+13.8

3

T. Neuville

N. Gilsoul

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

+59.7

4

O. Tanak

M. Jarveoja

Ford Fiesta WRC

+2:18.3

5

H. Paddon

J. Kennard

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

+3:32.9

6

J. M. Latvala

M. Anttila

Toyota Yaris WRC

+4:40.3

7

J. Hänninen

K. Lindström

Toyota Yaris WRC

+5:06.2

8

D. Sordo

M. Martí

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

+5:22.7

9

E. Evans

D. Barritt

Ford Fiesta WRC

+8:41.8

10

P. Tidemand

J. Andersson

Škoda Fabia R5

+10:51.9

    2017 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings After round 3  

1

S. Ogier

66

2

J.M Latvala

58

3

O. Tanak

48

4

D. Sordo

30

5

T. Neuville

28

6

K. Meeke

27

7

C. Breen

20

8

E. Evans

20

9

H. Paddon

17

10

S. Lefebvre

10

11

J. Hänninen

9

    2017 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings After round 3  

1

M-Sport World Rally Team

103

2

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

67

3

Hyundai Motorsport

65

4

Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team

55

 

All results remain subject to official FIA confirmation. 

Hayden Paddon heads to Mexico’s third round of the FIA World Rally Championship having completed plenty of solid preparation in the preceding weeks.

Paddon and co-driver John Kennard don’t underestimate the challenges of the Rally Guanajuato México, based in the city of Leon 400km north-west of Mexico City, where temperatures and altitude as the rally heads into the nearby mountains can impact the rally cars’ performance. A two-day test in the heat and dust of southern Spain with Hyundai Motorsport after the snow of Rally Sweden went well. “I felt really comfortable in the car and learnt a lot about the settings,” Paddon says. “I’m hopeful that this will translate at Rally Mexico.”

Two weeks at home in New Zealand – busy with publicity commitments, launching the Hyundai New Zealand Rally Team line-up for the domestic rally season and lots of training in Kiwi summer temperatures – puts Paddon in a good place physically and mentally to get back into competition. “While these two weeks have been busy, it’s been a welcome reset to get our season back on track.”

Of Rally Mexico, one of two WRC events in the Americas, Paddon says: “It’s a challenging rally – the roads are quite slippery on first pass, but it has quite a nice nature with some slow technical parts and some faster parts. With 12 WRC cars in the event, the roads don’t cut up so much. However, there is no room for error with many obstacles lining the edge of the roads. “It’s warm, but not too warm". Our two-week visit to New Zealand en route to Mexico was actually quite similar temperatures, so it’s been a good way to acclimatise. The altitude has a greater effect on the cars than us, losing up to 20% power.”

This is the third time Paddon and Kennard have competed in Mexico. “I prefer to go back to events with some prior experience – even if it’s only once or twice we have previously done it, as it will be in Mexico. We have some good info from last year that has helped me to prepare.”

Kennard agrees that it’s been good to have time back in New Zealand. “For the last couple of years, I’ve stayed in Scandinavia before heading to Mexico, but this way, I can be out in the Marlborough sunshine, training on my mountain bike in a similar climate. You’re generally a bit closer to the same time zone, albeit almost a day behind, so with that extra day here to acclimatise to summer temps, hopefully we’re all set to go in Mexico.”

Paddon and Kennard will start the first day ninth on the road in the #4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, based on their current championship position. Saturday and Sunday will see WRC competitors running in reverse rally classification.


KEY FACTS OF RALLY GUANAJUATO MEXICO

Dates: 9-12 March 2017

Stages: 19 (393.8 competitive km)

Total distance: 897.68 km

WRC competitors: 12

Location: Leon


RALLY NOTES

  • The season’s first non-European and gravel event.
  • A new Super Special Stage at Mexico City’s Zócalo main square – known for its appearance during the opening scene of the James Bond film Spectre – opens the event on Thursday evening with more than 200,000 fans expected to attend.
  • Friday’s itinerary takes the stunning scenery and thin air of the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains, before descending into the Rally’s famous underground stage through former silver mine tunnels in Guanajuato.
  • There are two new stages on Sunday in a largely unchanged route.

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. 


New Zealanders Hayden Paddon and John Kennard return to World Rally Championship competition at Rally Sweden, which runs 9-12 February.

The WRC’s only true winter rally, Rally Sweden is one of Paddon’s favourites.  

“It’s a rally I really enjoy,” says Paddon following a one day snow test with Hyundai Motorsport in the 2017-spec Hyundai i20 Coupe world rally car.  

“I enjoy the conditions in Sweden and the fast nature of the stages which take us across the border into Norway. Last year, we were able to be competitive there.” [Paddon and Kennard secured a history-making second place at the 2016 edition of Rally Sweden. Paddon became the first non-European driver to finish on the podium on the snow rally and was one of only seven non-Scandinavian drivers to finish second in Sweden’s WRC event.] 

Paddon adds: “It’s a good rally for us to build the confidence back and the goal is to get back to basics by enjoying the driving again.” 

Of his one-day test with the team, Paddon said the feeling with the car was really positive. “A good step from 12 months ago on a snowy road. As this is one of the fastest events of the year, we will really see the benefits of the extra power and aero of the 2017-spec cars here. 

About two-thirds of the rally route is new, which Paddon says will mix things up a bit for all 14 WRC drivers. “It’s crucial to write good, new notes on these fast stages, but the weather and amount of snow differs year to year and this can affect the stages more so.” 

From the perspective of Blenheim-based Kennard, Sweden’s snowy conditions can be challenging in terms of visibility. “Being faster in the new car, it’s even more important for me to take care with visual references to know where I’m up to with the pace notes,” says Kennard.  

Paddon and Kennard run the #4 Hyundai, the same number they’ll carry all season, while team-mates Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul and Dani Sordo/Marc Martí will compete in cars #5 and 6 respectively. The two highest-placed crews from each team will score points for the Manufacturers’ Championship in each event. 

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.  

KEY FACTS OF THE 67th RALLY SWEDEN

Dates: 9-12 February 2017
Stages: 18 (331.74 km)
Total distance: 1,415.10 km
WRC competitors: 14
Location: Torsby

RALLY NOTES

  • Almost 58% of the rally route is new compared to 2016, including Friday’s Hof-Finnskog test, which has never been used before.
  • In a bid to enjoy more wintry conditions, the service park moves to a more northerly location in Torsby this season.
  • The event will get underway on Thursday with a super special stage at the Färjestad Trotting Course in Karlstad, a 1.9km stage popular with spectators, which will be repeated on Saturday evening.
  • Friday’s itinerary will once again see crews cross over the border into Norway but a mid-leg service will be re-introduced instead of the previous Tyre Fitting Zone.
  • Saturday’s seven stages will feature two runs through Vargåsen with the Colin’s Crest Award, twice won previously by Hyundai Motorsport (2014/2015) up for grabs for the longest jump.
  • Sunday’s live TV Power Stage finishes in the Torsby service park.

New Zealand’s top rally driver Hayden Paddon commences his third full World Rally Championship season with long-time co-driver John Kennard and Hyundai Motorsport at this weekend’s famed Monte Carlo rally.

Like his Hyundai team-mates Belgium Thierry Neuville and Spaniard Dani Sordo, the New Zealander pilots the team’s latest rally challenger, the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, which has been built to meet revised technical regulations introduced for this year’s competition. The 2017-specification cars look more aggressive than their predecessors. Changes have focussed on improving aerodynamic and mechanical grip, increasing engine power up to 380bhp, reducing car weight, as well as the re-introduction of the active centre differential. 

With about six days testing in the 2017-spec car completed last year, a two-day test prior to the season-opening Monte Carlo rally delivered both dry and icy tarmac conditions which helped Paddon’s preparation for the event he’s contested only once before.

Paddon says it will be difficult to get the most out of the new cars on the unpredictable asphalt event in the mountains of southern France.  

“With the changeable slippery conditions, it will be harder than ever to put the power to the ground. However, the active centre diff should help us a little,” Paddon says. 

“Monte Carlo is the most challenging event of the year. The ice, snow and changing conditions make it hard to be comfortable. As we didn’t finish here in our first attempt last year [having retired on the Friday after sliding on an ice patch, clipping a tree with the rear of the car and causing extensive damage to the left rear wheel], so the only focus this year is to finish the rally.” 

Paddon’s dedication to improving his own performance is never-ending. “We’ve focused on a lot of the weak areas from 2016. This year, John and I want to make the same step forward that we did last year. That’s now at a point where we have to be critical of every little detail. I think we have grown a lot over the past three years and I feel we are finally in a position where we have enough experience to allow us to be more competitive. So once we have Monte done with, it’s pedal to the metal for the remainder of the season.” 

From the perspective of Blenheim-based Kennard, the new car also brings new challenges. “With the new car, the co-driver’s challenge is to work out where the increases in car speed will be, in order to speed up the notes accordingly,” says Kennard. “This is mainly out of medium to fast corners, where the active diff has most effect. We’ve also been working on simplifying some of the notes a little, to make them easier to read, and for Hayden to absorb, while still keeping the detail needed to go quickly.” 

Hyundai Motorsport fields a three-car line-up in all rounds of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship, running under the unified Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team name. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard, Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul and Dani Sordo/Marc Martí will compete in cars 4, 5 and 6 respectively. The two highest-placed crews from each team will score points for the Manufacturers’ Championship in each event.

Canterbury’s Job Quantock has won the biggest rally driver development package on offer in New Zealand motorsport by being selected as the winner of the inaugural Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout and Scholarship. 

The Hyundai NZ Young Driver Scholarship is a programme developed by star New Zealand rally driver Hayden Paddon in partnership with Hyundai New Zealand and the Hyundai-backed Pinnacle Programme for talented teenagers. 

Originally from Ashburton and now based Ohoka, north of Christchurch, 22-year-old Quantock will now benefit in a range of ways from the programme designed to boost his motorsport career aspirations, including the opportunity to drive the Hyundai NZ AP4 i20 rally car run by Paddon Rallysport in two rounds of the 2017 New Zealand Rally Championship, as well as testing and training with Paddon. There is also the potential for an expanded programme in 2018 for Quantock with the Hyundai NZ Young Driver Scholarship. 

Quantock is relatively new to rally competition, having contested his first full season this year, yet he took second overall in the 2016 Mainland Rally Series and finished second in two other regional rallies. He impressed Paddon and other judges to win the two-day shootout held in Auckland and the Maramarua Forest which finished late today (Saturday 10 December). Quantock and the other four finalists went through fitness assessments and classroom sessions from Paddon and other guest experts on sponsorship planning, nutrition, media presence, career planning, writing pace notes and car set-up, before enjoying time behind the wheel of the Hyundai AP4 car with his co-driver and university friend Alan Steel. 

The scholarship attracted over 180 applicants with the other four finalists being:

·   Max Bayley, 20, Hawke’s Bay
·   Sloan Cox, 24, Rotorua
·   Matt Summerfield, 24, Rangiora
·   Dylan Thomson, 21, Waiuku 

Speaking shortly after being told he’d won the scholarship, Quantock was still finding the right words. “It’s amazing; a surreal feeling to win. There was always a chance of winning, but I wasn’t too sure how big a chance we had, being relatively new to the sport. It was whoever had the best package that Hyundai was looking for; luckily that was us.” 

Quantock says his time in the Hyundai AP4 car with co-driver Alan Steel was a big highlight. “The whole package that Hayden and Hyundai have put on this weekend has been invaluable. A big thank you to Hayden and Hyundai for this amazing opportunity – it’s pretty unreal for where Alan and I are going in this sport and for the New Zealand motorsport community as a whole. Where Hayden’s going and where he’s taking the sport is amazing and it’s going to be great, not only for our future and everyone’s future, I believe.” 

Quantock also paid credit to his fellow finalists and their co-drivers at the shootout. “Everyone’s been very friendly and welcoming. I hadn’t met them all before, but I’ve already made great friends.” 

Paddon says there were a few reasons why Quantock stood out. “Job is definitely the most inexperienced of the crews in the final, but he showed a lot of potential in all aspects – from the fitness sessions to how he conducted himself throughout the two days. He fits the whole philosophy of the Hyundai brand to foster new talent. I think Job can be a great ambassador for rallying, a great ambassador for Hyundai and he has a lot of potential to learn and improve. We believe he can be a New Zealand champion and potentially compete well internationally.” 

Paddon said the shootout judging was almost harder than a rally. “It was made even harder with how good and how close everyone was when we came to actually pick a winner. We weren’t just looking for the fastest driver – it’s the whole package, about their long-term potential. 

“Over the whole weekend, everyone was attentive with everything we talked about. It’s a great feeling for us that they found the shootout valuable, so I hope they’ve all taken something away from it, some of the secrets, I guess you could call them that I’ve worked on over the few years that we don’t normally tell people. 

“Our thanks to everyone at Hyundai New Zealand and our team who put the whole shootout programme together. Without Hyundai, the shootout and the scholarship ahead for Job and Alan would not be possible.” 

Bernice Mene, leader of the Hyundai-backed Pinnacle Programme for talented teens, says the shootout sits well alongside the Pinnacle Programme. “It’s the whole mentoring process, looking at your support network. With Pinnacle, we’re working with students who are slightly younger than the shootout contestants, but the process is similar in how we get them to reflect on where they are, what their goals are, how they’re resourced and where they can think they can improve. You don’t know about these things until you’re exposed to them through programmes like this shootout. Hayden’s passion to give back, that’s exactly Pinnacle’s and Hyundai’s strategy to give back to youth and to nurture them to be bigger and better than they are now.” 

Mene observed the different backgrounds, ages, approaches and support networks of the five finalists. “I think Hayden highlighted for them all to have processes in place, break the goals down to achieve your dream. The contestants can now see those pathways and contacts they can tap into. They also said the hands-on practical stuff was so useful – to have Hayden driving them around in the van taking recce notes; no one’s ever done that with them before so they said it’s just really amazing to learn from Hayden. 

“I could see many points Hayden talked about transfers across to other sports, but rallying is such a team sport, a specialist sport, you need even more diverse skills, like budgeting and financials, than a netball or rugby player.” 

Throughout the two days, participants asked if the shootout will be an annual occurrence. Paddon says that nothing is confirmed yet, but he hopes so. “The idea is that this is phase one. We’d certainly encourage the other finalists and the guys who joined us for the classroom sessions to reapply if we run this again next year.” 

Paddon and Mene were joined on the judging panel by rally driver Reece Jones, Newshub senior sports reporter Shaun Summerfield and former Rally New Zealand chairman Chris Carr. Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout and Scholarship was open to drivers aged 16-25 with applicants having contested a minimum of 10 rallies, including four pace-noted rallies. 

The exact events that Quantock and Steel will contest in the Hyundai AP4 car in the 2017 NZRC are yet to be confirmed, but more news will be available on the newly-established Paddon Rallysport Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/paddonrallysport.

Hayden Paddon’s vision of growing the sport of rallying in New Zealand officially gets underway with the opening of applications for the Paddon Rally Foundation.

 

Paddon, age 29 and New Zealand’s most successful rally driver, has gathered considerable support to create the Paddon Rally Foundation and fulfil his desire to give back to the sport that has given him the opportunities he needed to create a career as a professional rally driver.

 

“It’s no secret that rallying is something I’m incredibly passionate about,” says Paddon while back home in New Zealand following his best season to date in the FIA World Rally Championship where he competes with long-time co-driver John Kennard for Hyundai Motorsport. “Although I compete to win at the highest level, I get just as much of a kick seeing the sport grow with more drivers out competing and more young talent coming through.

 

“Rallying, as a sport in New Zealand, is growing rapidly thanks to passionate people working hard at many levels. Through the Paddon Rally Foundation, we also want to contribute to the sport by supporting rally competitors from grassroots to international level. For our small population, I think we have one of the strongest rally communities in the world, a community I’m proud to be part of.”

 

Paddon says: “I was very lucky to have many people help me get to where I am today, particularly those involved with the company, Hayden Paddon Rallysport Global (HPRG), which was formed to back my WRC goals. While we are still forging our way to our ultimate goal of winning the world championship, we have an opportunity to help others while interest in rallying is on such a high.”

 

Established early in 2016, the Paddon Rally Foundation aims to assist New Zealand rallying for many years to come and is governed by a board of six, including Paddon as the chairman.

 

“After some brainstorming with fellow board members, and after the struggles we had putting together funding through the early years, we wanted to create something that gives more opportunity to an array of rally sport competitors.

We often see top competitors getting opportunities and support – and we will also contribute at that level – however the grass root levels are just as, if not more, important for the growth of the sport and increasing people’s involvement. The foundation is designed to assist competitors of all ages, experience levels and competition classes.

 

The Paddon Rally Foundation is a separate scheme to the Hyundai NZ Young Driver shootout, with its one winner per year, and aims to help greater numbers of competitors.

 

“We have been working with Hyundai New Zealand for several years and what they do with the Pinnacle Programme gave us a good platform and idea on how to structure the Paddon Rally Foundation. Between the Hyundai NZ Young Driver shootout, Pinnacle Programme and Paddon Rally Foundation, there have never been more opportunities for young people and motorsport competitors than now.”

 

Paddon adds: “Greater competitor numbers leads to greater awareness for the sport, which can also attract more kids to get their cars off the streets and into a sanctioned form of motorsport, as well as more people contributing to the sport as team personnel, officials and volunteers. The flow-on affect can potentially be huge.”

 

Applications for the first round of funding and product support from the Paddon Rally Foundation are now open, and close on 30 January 2017, with three categories for applicants:

§  Novice/club – no age limits, drivers and co-drivers competing any level of club motorsport/rallying

§  Rally – all levels of club/national rallying, no limits on age or experience

§  National and international – drivers and co-drivers, under the age of 30, competing nationally in the New Zealand Rally Championship or internationally

 

Paddon says: “Funding has been planned with longevity in mind and the first year will see a smaller allocation of funds while the foundation builds up resources for the coming years.

 

“We are grateful for the fantastic support the foundation is receiving from investors behind the scenes and the commercial support of Z Energy and Chicane Racewear. The Eastern Southland Car Club and Marathon Rally Car Club are also valued supporters of the foundation. Also, the 110 guests in our Rally Australia tour group supported a small fundraiser auction where over $10,000 was raised for the foundation.”

Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard fought back to secure fourth place in Rally Australia after a puncture ruined their hopes of a podium finish at the final event of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship season.

 

Sunday’s final day of action in Australia comprised five special stages and Paddon was focused on improving on the third position he held at the end Saturday. Securing the third-quickest time on Sunday’s opening 6.2km stage, Paddon said he wasn’t going down without trying. Unfortunately, on the next stage – the day’s longest at 30.58km – they went wide and touched a bank.

 

“This pushed the tyre off the rim and I had to do 20 k’s on a flat tyre and lost almost a minute,” said Paddon, who then dropped from third to fifth allowing Hyundai team-mates Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo to pass him on the overall standings.

 

Refocusing on the end result, Paddon and Kennard then set the second fastest time on the penultimate stage to take fourth place back from Sordo and thus secure their third consecutive fourth place of the 2016 season.

 

“It’s a hard pill to swallow, not coming home with a podium today. We sort of had it in the bag, and unfortunately made a bit of a mistake on the long stage. We were trying to put a bit of pressure on the guys up front, but it sort of bit us back and we got a puncture.

 

“But fourth is still okay and there are a lot of positives to take out of the weekend. We made some good improvements over last year and are certainly going to come back stronger in the New Year. I’m more determined than ever to make some improvements and get the results we should have had this year for next year.”

 

The fourth place in Australia secured fourth place in the drivers’ and co-drivers’ championships for Paddon and Kennard respectively. These are the best-ever results for New Zealand competitors in world rallying.

 

Rally Australia represented the final WRC outing for Hyundai’s New Generation i20 WRC car with new technical regulations and a brand-new car being introduced for the 2017 championship. With two wins and second place in the manufacturers’ championship, 2016 has been Hyundai Motorsport’s most competitive season in the WRC, topped off with the team’s maiden Australian top-three result.

 

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We knew we’d be in for a thrilling final day. There were a few final twists in the tale of the 2016 season, but overall we can be satisfied with our debut Australian podium. Well done to Thierry and Nicolas on their performance and claiming second place in the drivers and co-drivers’ championships. It was a pity for Hayden that his incident this morning prevented a push for victory. Dani, too, was also unfortunate not to be able to fight for a better result.

 

“As a team, we have had a strong year. The New Generation i20 WRC has done us proud but it’s the result of hard work by the entire team. We have shown a lot of progress and maturity this year, and I am personally grateful to every individual member of Hyundai Motorsport for their valuable contributions. I would also like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Volkswagen Motorsport for being such fierce competitors. They have set the benchmark very high. We will miss competing against them, but will continue to be inspired by their achievements.”

 

Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard are just ten seconds off second place after the second day of Rally Australia, with the Kiwi pair aiming to push hard on Sunday’s final five stages.

 

Paddon’s third place is exactly ten seconds away from four-time world champion Sebastien Ogier in second, who is in turn just two seconds off rally leader Andreas Mikkelsen. Just five stages and 57.18 competitive kilometres of the final round of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship remain to run on Sunday (Australian time).

 

Paddon said Saturday’s mix of rural shire roads and spectator-friendly super special stages run south of Coffs Harbour, New South Wales in hot conditions, weren’t bad.

 

“Obviously this morning’s been good,” he said, having won Saturday morning’s opening 50.8km test in his Hyundai i20 world rally car and jumped from fourth on the overall standings after Friday’s 11-stage itinerary into second place behind Mikkelsen.

 

“Today was the day we were always targeting to have a bit of a push to climb the leader-board and close the gap to the leader. It’s only half the job; the big part of the job is we’re trying to do the same this afternoon. It’s going to be a lot hotter, a lot harder on tyres and last year we made a mistake in the same situation so hopefully we’ve learned from that and continue the momentum forward.”

 

Looking at the afternoon’s performance where he could only manage sixth fastest through the 50.8km Nambucca stage, Paddon commented on tyre wear as the thermometer climbed above 35?C, which made tyre management an issue for all drivers. “My tyre management is better than before but still there’s more to do.”

 

Of the day overall, he said: “This afternoon we missed a little bit of speed, but think we can be happy we made a good improvement over last year. It’s a good fight upfront, there’s only 10 seconds [to Sebastian Ogier in second] so we’re in a position now where we’re going to push very hard tomorrow and see what we can do.”

 

The Saturday morning stage win added to another stage victory on Friday morning brings Paddon’s career WRC stage win total to 17.

 

Sunday’s final leg heads north of Coffs Harbour for the first time. Drivers tackle four tests before the rally-closing live TV Power Stage, with bonus points for the fastest three drivers. The five stages cover 57.18km.

Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard head to Rally Australia focussed putting together their perfect performance as they contest the last round of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship.

 

“We learnt a valuable lesson here last year,” says Paddon, “where we put too much pressure on ourselves for a particular result and we didn't perform well. So this year the focus is on putting together the perfect performance and that’s what we’ve worked on with our preparation.”

 

The 17-20 November rally is one Paddon enjoys due to the amount of support he and Kennard receive from Australian and Kiwi spectators. “Just competing so close to home and having so much support here is what makes the event special,” he says. “Also the long 50km Nambucca stage is one of my favourite stages of the year so I always look forward to this.”

 

Most of the rally route around host town Coffs Harbour, New South Wales is the same or very similar to last year with Paddon describing two general types of stages. “There are heavily gravelled public roads – closed for the event, of course – which are not too dissimilar to stages we have on several New Zealand events, and then there are soft, slippery stages through rainforest which have a completely different nature.”

 

Currently fourth in the WRC drivers’ championship, just three points behind Andreas Mikkelsen in third place, Paddon will be running fourth on the road for Friday’s and Saturday’s 255km of stages.

 

“There will be significant sweeping on these first two full days of the rally, so fourth is not a bad place considering the guys in front of us we will be chasing. However, Jari Matti Latvala, being sixth on the road, will be the one to watch.”

 

Of his fourth position in the drivers’ championship and the possibility of finishing higher in the standings, Paddon says: “We will let the championship take care of itself. Of course it would be amazing to finish in the top three, but the focus is on our performance and letting the rally and overall championship result follow that.”

 

Rally Australia also marks last round of competition for the current spec Hyundai i20 world rally car with Paddon and Hyundai team-mates Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo having been working with the team in recent months to develop the 2017-spec car ready for next year’s competition.

 

“The New Generation i20 WRC is a car that has brought the team a lot of success in a short space of time,” says Paddon. “So we would like to give it a nice send-off, as I’m sure our team-mates also want to.”

 

After confirming second place in the WRC manufacturers’ championship at Wales Rally GB with a fourth consecutive podium, Hyundai Motorsport hopes to finish its most competitive season in style with a podium finish in Australia.

 

While there was no pre-event test for this rally, gravel setup specifications will be well sorted from earlier events. Paddon and Kennard join nine other WRC crews to complete reconnaissance over the 312.98km of special stages on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday morning they get their full speed shakedown runs in their rally car on a dedicated stage before the official start ceremony in the afternoon. The rally action gets underway at 8am Friday (Australian eastern standard time) heading south of Coffs Harbour for 11 stages. Saturday’s route covers the greatest distance with 135.19km of stages, including two runs of the 50.88km Nambucca, one of the longest stages of the season. Sunday’s action is north of Coffs Harbour for four stages with the final run through the popular 6.44km Wedding Bells marking the final stage of the 2016 championship.

Five young drivers have been selected to compete for the inaugural Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout and Scholarship, a programme developed by Kiwi world rally star Hayden Paddon and Hyundai New Zealand.

 

The collaboration aims to give a young New Zealand rally driver a major step-up with their motorsport career aspirations as well as providing the scholarship winner with the opportunity to drive the Hyundai NZ AP4 i20 rally car run by Paddon Rallysport in two rounds of the 2017 New Zealand Rally Championship, testing and training with Paddon, plus the potential for an expanded programme in 2018.

 

From more than 180 applicants, the following five drivers were selected as finalists for the December shootout weekend where they will participate with the co-driver of their choice:

·         Max Bayley, 20, Hawke’s Bay

·         Sloan Cox, 24, Rotorua

·         Job Quantock, 22, Ashburton

·         Matt Summerfield, 24, Rangiora

·         Dylan Thomson, 21, Waiuku

 

Paddon says: “We were all blown away by the interest and sheer quality of applications – some really good people missed out this time. It made our job really difficult to narrow it down to five finalists, but it’s a sure sign how much our sport of rallying is growing and it’s great that Hyundai New Zealand can help us to continue that growth with this scholarship.”

 

Running near Auckland over the weekend of 9-10 December, the Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout includes lessons and assessments on fitness, how to identify and look after sponsors, nutrition, media presence, career planning, writing pace notes and car set-up. The finalists also get a day in the forest where they will be writing and driving to their own pace notes in the Hyundai AP4 car.

 

Paddon says he and fellow judges rally driver Reece Jones, talented teens Pinnacle Programme leader Bernice Mene, Newshub senior sports reporter Shaun Summerfield and former Rally New Zealand chairman Chris Carr aim to not only find the shootout winner but help them to develop throughout the classroom sessions.

 

“We want all finalists to take as much as they can away from the shootout weekend.

 

“We are not looking for the fastest driver – we are looking for someone with that X factor who has the ability to learn and develop into a leading rally driver, both nationally and internationally, while representing the Hyundai brand.”

 

Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout and Scholarship was open to drivers aged 16-25 with applicants having contested a minimum of 10 rallies, including four pace-noted rallies.

 

Seven more applicants – Jack Williamson, Max Tregilgas, Michael McLean, Chris McLean, Ari Pettigrew and Jack Hawkeswood – have been invited to participate in the classroom day.

 

Paddon says: “It’s extremely exciting to see so many young and very talented drivers apply even though this opportunity may be a little too early in their career due to experience and/or age. However, we felt it was a good opportunity to open the door to these seven drivers for the classroom sessions to learn and expand their knowledge to help with their development as rally competitors.”

 

Bernice Mene, leader of the Hyundai NZ-based Pinnacle Programme, says: “The Hyundai NZ Young Driver shootout fits with the principles of the Pinnacle Programme as it encourages and enables talented young people to achieve their goals by exposing them to opportunities to further develop their skills and boost them to the next level.”

 

“In the short term, the Hyundai NZ Young Driver Scholarship will focus on a New Zealand-based programme with the winner,” says Paddon. “It’s a fantastic chance for them to develop as a driver and all-round competitor, with the potential and goal of winning the 2018 New Zealand Rally Championship title as part of the scholarship. This would be a perfect base to work on to take the next step internationally.”

 

Paddon says plans are in place to continue this scholarship in the future. “There will be many more opportunities for these young drivers, and others that missed out this time to potentially participate in the shootout in the years ahead.

 

“For those that did miss out this time, also keep an eye out for the Paddon Rally Foundation which we will officially launch within the next month. It’s set up to provide financial assistance to many competitors of all levels.”

 

 

Paddon adds: “Later this year, we will also be officially launching the Paddon Foundation which is separate to this scholarship, and will assist more the grass roots level of New Zealand rallying, encouraging and keeping more people into the sport.”

 

The Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout and Scholarship winner will be announced on 11 December.

New Zealand’s top rally pairing Hayden Paddon and John Kennard have secured fourth place at this year’s World Rally Championship event in Wales, their second close fourth-place finish in two events.

 

It’s the best result the Kiwis have achieved at Wales Rally GB, this being their sixth run here. The rally delivered its traditional wet and muddy conditions despite being run a little earlier in the championship calendar than it is usually. Paddon and Kennard continue to hold in fourth position in their respective drivers’ and co-drivers’ championship points-tables, and are now just three points adrift of third.

 

“Fourth is a good result, but of course we wanted more,” said Paddon at the conclusion of Sunday’s (UK time) six short stages, where he kept the pressure on third-placed Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Thierry Neuville. Paddon matched the second-quickest time of rally winner Sebastien Ogier on the morning’s third stage while battling with Neuville, and eventually finished just 19.5 seconds shy of third place.

 

“To come so close to the podium two rallies in a row is certainly a little frustrating, but at the same time, these are still good, strong points which put us in a position now where we can fight for third in the championship at the last rally in Australia. It also gives us a good road position for Australia so we’ve got a bit of a fire in our bellies to really come out and attack in Australia to try and get a good result.

 

“We’re getting closer – even this year here, we’re a little bit behind still, but it’s a much bigger improvement to where we were here last year. So we’re heading in the right direction, it’s just small steps and we’re having to be a little bit patient in the meantime.

 

“These roads have never really suited me. They don’t suit my natural driving style, and don’t allow me to manoeuvre the car into the corner as I like to. So we had to adapt this weekend and that never really felt natural, and that’s where a little bit of the time loss was. We know how and why the time is disappearing, we just have to work on how we’re going to fix that for the future.”

 

Neuville’s third place means that Hyundai Motorsport has now taken 11 podiums in total this season, finishing in the top-three in nine out of the 12 events held. The team has confirmed its second place in the WRC manufacturers’ championship on 285 points with Neuville, Paddon and Sordo all inside the top-five on the drivers’ classification.

 

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “Firstly, we are all delighted to secure second place in the manufacturers’ championship with today’s result. It’s a special moment in our history and confirmation of our most competitive season in the WRC. It’s actually been a bittersweet weekend from a performance point of view. On the one hand, I am pleased we could take our first ever Welsh podium, thanks to a strong showing from Thierry and Nicolas. On the other hand, we were not able to put up a stronger fight for the top-two positions, which shows there are some areas of performance where we still need to improve. Looking at the positives, the New Generation i20 WRC ran reliably all weekend, and all three crews finished in the top-six - by far our most competitive showing in Wales to date. We can look positively towards the final event of the season.”

 

The 2016 WRC season concludes in Australia over the weekend of 17-20 November.

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.

Hayden Paddon is looking forward to tackling the gravel stages of this weekend’s Wales Rally GB with co-driver John Kennard, saying the forestry stages remind him of similar rally stages at home.

 

The New Zealanders head into the penultimate round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship in fourth position in their respective drivers’ and co-drivers’ championship points-tables. With the final two rounds of this year’s WRC – Wales and Australia – being run on the gravel surface that Paddon favours, they could still secure second place in the standings behind Sebastien Ogier who has already secured the 2016 championship title. The pair are also more familiar with the UK and Australian events than many others, having competed in Wales five times previously and four times in Australia.

 

“I have always enjoyed Wales Rally GB a lot,” says Paddon following a couple of days testing with Hyundai Motorsport to prepare for this event and further development of the team’s 2017 WRC contender. “It reminds me a lot of some of the forestry roads we get in New Zealand. Traditionally it’s always a wet, muddy rally, but this year – being run a little earlier than usual – could be a little different.”

 

Paddon says: “Testing has gone well – I really feel like we are in a good place with this year’s car on gravel now. It’s just a pity we couldn’t show that at the last event in Spain during Friday’s gravel stages, due to technical issues.”

 

At present, the long-range forecast for the 27-30 October rally is showing warmer and dryer weather than normal.

 

“How that will affect the rally and stages is an unknown as it’s not normal, so we will assess as the rally progresses.

 

“Not only do we have to be fast in Wales, but we must also look after the car as there is no mid-leg service on any of the three days, just a tyre regroup.

 

“We want to be challenging near the front again. This is a rally I have always enjoyed, but we have never been able to put together a good result here, something we would definitely like to change this year.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport has entered three New Generation i20 WRCs in Wales Rally GB, which will feature the championship’s first stage in England since 1999. Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo will return for the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team in the #3 and #4 cars respectively. Paddon and Kennard, who finished fifth in Wales last year, will compete in the #20 Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team entry.

 

The 22-stage Wales Rally GB will be run over a total of 332.87 km with a huge 962.87 km of touring stages which sees competitors travel south from the Deeside service park on the northern coast to stages in the middle of Wales and back each day. The rally gets underway on Friday with an itinerary that comprises over half of the total distance with 178km of challenging gravel stages. Stage names like Hafren and Sweet Lamb are familiar to rally aficionados, however they’ll be run in reverse direction this year, while Saturday also features stages that have not appeared on the rally since 1997. The unpredictable early winter British weather will almost certainly play a part with soft compound tyres needed if conditions turn cold and wet.

Hayden Paddon and John Kennard marked their 100th rally together with their best result to date on a tarmac rally, securing fourth place in RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España, the 11th round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship.

 

Paddon and Kennard completed Sunday’s (European time) final four stages, determined to demonstrate their improving pace on the tarmac surface they’ve been working hard to master. Second quickest on the day’s opening 19.30km test to rally winner Sébastien Ogier, they were third quickest on the next two stages, then fourth equal with Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville on the event’s final stage, the power stage on which the fastest three crews can earn bonus points.

 

Hyundai Motorsport has scored one of its best-combined team results with two New Generation i20 WRCs on the podium in Spain in the hands of Dani Sordo and Neuville, while Paddon made it three Hyundais inside the top-four.

 

“It’s been a positive weekend,” said Paddon on Sunday afternoon. “I think we can be happy with the pace we’ve had on tarmac for the last day and a half. Once we made the changes at lunchtime yesterday, we’ve been able to be up near the front and challenging our team-mates, and today, even a little bit at the front. We can take a lot of pleasure from that, that at long last we’ve made some progress on tarmac. Certainly without the problems on Friday, we could have been challenging to be on the podium, but it is what it is. Fourth is still a good result. Even better for the team to have three cars in the top four and a good payback for all the work everyone’s putting in back at the factory and here on the rallies.”

 

The Kiwi crew continued with their own learning on tarmac stages and kept the pressure to finish 12.8 seconds behind Neuville, an improvement on Saturday’s margin of 16.1 seconds. Paddon and Kennard were comfortable in fourth, being nearly two minutes ahead of fifth-placed Mads Ostberg.

 

Among the highlights of Paddon and Kennard’s weekend on the unique mixed surface rally in Spain were their stage times up the top of leader-board – three second-quickest, three third-quickest and two fourth-quickest on 19 stages in total. They finished Saturday on a high, second quickest in the 2.24 km super special stage in the host city of Salou. They were just 0.1 seconds off stage-winner Neuville with Paddon pleased with the close result: “…as I have struggled with these [short super special] stages all my life.” Among the challenges were Friday’s technical issues in their New Generation i20 World Rally Car when anti-lag system issues meant they couldn’t achieve the pace they expected on that day’s predominantly gravel stages.

 

Looking ahead, Paddon said: “Now we obviously have two gravel rallies ahead of us so we’re looking forward to getting back on the loose stuff to make amends for what happened on Friday [here]. We know we’ve got the speed on gravel, we’ve just got to put all the pieces together and try and challenge for maybe a couple of podiums to finish the year off.”

 

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We wanted to fight for the win today but it just wasn’t to be on this occasion, however we have to be happy with this double podium. Dani has had a fantastic weekend in front of his home crowd and thoroughly deserves this result. To have two crews on the podium, with Thierry taking his fifth podium of the season and now being in close contention for second place in the drivers’ championship, is a satisfying achievement. It’s even more pleasing when we see Hayden taking his best ever tarmac result in fourth and Kevin taking his WRC career best. There are many positive lessons we can take away from this rally to make improvements for the future. Now, our focus shifts back to gravel for Wales Rally GB and Australia - we want to finish the season on a high.”

 

Paddon and Kennard hold fourth place in their respective drivers’ and co-drivers’ championship points-tables, but could still secure second in the standings with the final two rounds in Britain and Australia on their favoured dirt roads.

 

The World Rally Championship moves to Wales next with Wales Rally GB running 27-30 October before concluding at Rally Australia in November.

New Zealand’s top rally pairing Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are in fourth place after two days of action at RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España, and are keen to push for a podium position.

 

The pair completed Saturday’s (European time) eight tarmac stages just 16.2 seconds adrift of Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville, but know it’s a big ask to catch Neuville who has more experience on this surface than they do.

 

“It’s been a good day on tarmac today,” said Paddon of Saturday’s action. “Okay, we struggled a bit for pace in the morning, but were able to make some changes at lunchtime to increase the pace in the afternoon which put some pressure on for the podium.

 

“Now we’re in fourth [with Neuville and Paddon elevated up the leader-board when Andreas Mikkelsen crashed on stage 12], with a gap of about 16 seconds to our team-mate Thierry. When you’re trying to chase down someone like him on tarmac, it’s a bit of mountain to climb. But we’re close and we certainly won’t give up. We’ll do some more homework tonight and make some more changes and try and keep the pressure on tomorrow.”

 

The Kiwis finished Saturday on a high, second quickest in the 2.24 km super special stage which wrapped up the day’s action in the host city of Salou. They were just 0.1 seconds off Neuville’s time, who took the stage win. The close result was a big deal for Paddon “…as I have struggled with these [short super special] stages all my life.”

 

Earlier in the event, during Friday’s rain-affected and therefore muddy gravel stages, Paddon and Kennard also had to contend with technical issues in their New Generation i20 World Rally Car. They started the day strongly, leaping up the leader-board to third overall with a second quickest time through the day’s opening 12.50km stage. But issues with the anti-lag system hampered what Paddon had hoped would be a chance to perform strongly on the gravel roads.

 

Of Friday, Paddon said: “A difficult day, unfortunately. Near the end of the first stage we struck a technical problem we had to carry for the rest of the day. Basically it meant we’re down on power with no throttle response. We tried to manage it the best we can, but with no service it means we’ve had the problem all day. To be in P5 is probably still lucky, but it’s very frustrating because it could have been very good. The car’s been feeling good, even though the conditions have been quite tough.”

 

Paddon and Kennard mark 100 rallies competing together as they contest the mixed surface Spanish FIA World Rally Championship event. Their partnership started in 2006 when Paddon was just 18 years of age and has resulted in several history-making achievements such as this year’s rally victory in Argentina to become the first-ever New Zealanders to ever win a WRC round.

 

Paddon’s team, Hyundai Motorsport, is nicely placed to add another podium to its 2016 successes on Sunday afternoon with Dani Sordo second behind rally leader Sébastien Ogier, Neuville third and Paddon fourth. It’s one of the team’s strongest all round performances with young Kevin Abbring’s top-eight position adding to an impressive display.  

 

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “Dani has put up a brave fight today against the charge of Sébastien Ogier. We know what Ogier is capable of so the fact that Dani was able to defend his lead for much of Saturday showed an admirable performance. We end Saturday with all three New Generation i20 WRC cars in with a shout of a podium finish, which would be a great result for us. I’d like to commend our mechanics for an outstanding job last night to prepare all four cars for today’s asphalt stages. We have had a trouble-free day, although we recognise there is still scope to improve the balance of the cars in these conditions. From a championship perspective, we’re looking at a healthy collection of points if things stay like this but we will still push for the win tomorrow. Anything can still happen at the front - so we’ll be there to capitalise if it does.”

 

RallyRACC Catalunya continues on Sunday (European time) with just four stages on tarmac to wrap up the event. 

Hayden Paddon and John Kennard reach the milestone of 100 rallies together at this weekend’s unique mixed surface FIA World Rally Championship event in Spain.

 

Paddon and Kennard have forged a strong partnership that started in 2006 when Paddon was just 18 and competing in his first New Zealand national rally championship season. The pair has made New Zealand rallying history year after year, from their back-to-back New Zealand Rally Championship titles with Paddon as the youngest ever champion to their Production World Rally Championship title in 2011 and their first WRC rally win in Argentina this year.

 

“It’s been an incredible journey with John over the last 11 years and it’s amazing to hit the century,” says the 29-year-old of his sporting journey with Kennard. “Who would have thought after John first got in the car with me when I was 18 to ‘just see how it goes’ that it has taken the path it has?”

 

Blenheim-based Kennard, who continues to write his own section of the record books as the oldest co-driver in the WRC at the age of 57, says: “When we started this project with Hayden, we all only had dreams about how far we could take it, but, in the end, hard work and determination from so many people, plus sometimes Hayden's sheer bloody-mindedness to succeed, have brought it close to fruition and, for me it’s just fantastic to still be here contesting our 100th rally together.”

 

The New Zealanders compete in Rally de España, taking place this year 13-15 October, for the fourth time. For Paddon, this make the Spanish rally with its combination of gravel one day and tarmac for two days significant.

 

“It’s a special event as this is where we debuted in a WRC car three years ago. It’s also the rally on which we won our first stage in WRC [in 2014] so John and I have many good memories here,” says Paddon.

 

Based in the holiday resort town of Salou, south of Barcelona, the rally includes Friday’s predominantly gravel stages, followed by all-asphalt stages for Saturday and Sunday.

 

Paddon says: “I really enjoy that it’s the only mixed surface event on the calendar. Naturally I enjoy the day one gravel stages, but the tarmac stages here are some of the nicest in the world. They’re as close as you get to circuit racing in rallying.

 

“It’s good that the rally starts with gravel. Hopefully this will allow us to build some momentum and go into the weekend’s tarmac stages with good confidence. We had a really good test on gravel last week so hopefully we can make the most of that.”

 

Kennard adds to Paddon’s comments regarding Rally de España: “It’s always great to be in Spain. The rally presents a unique challenge with our pace notes, as the difference from the narrow, dusty gravel stages, to the wider, smooth tarmac requires a change in the way the notes are read, much in the same way we change the setup of the car and Hayden changes his driving style.”

 

Fresh from a sixth place in the Tour de Corse and an invitational tarmac rally in Italy immediately prior to the Spanish WRC round, Paddon says: “It has been a little frustrating of recent, not being as competitive as I would like. Road position will play a part on day one [when Paddon and Kennard will be fourth on the road courtesy of their fourth place on their respective WRC championship leader-boards], but I hope we can be competing up the front to start with. Come day two and three on the tarmac, the goal is to be closer to our team-mates than we were in Corsica.”

Paddon joined Hyundai Motorsport for a pre-event test on tarmac in Spain at the end of August as well as having an additional test on gravel during this past week.

 

The Kiwis will contest the Spanish event in the #20 car for the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team, while team-mates Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo are in the #3 and #4 Hyundai Shell World Rally Team New Generation i20 WRC cars respectively and Kevin Abbring pilots the #10 car.

New Zealand’s world rally star Hayden Paddon has joined forces with Hyundai New Zealand to give a young Kiwi rally driver a major step-up with their rally career aspirations.

 

Paddon and Hyundai New Zealand have collaborated to create the Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout and Scholarship with an impressive prize for the winner – the opportunity to drive the Hyundai NZ AP4 i20 rally car in two rounds of the 2017 New Zealand Rally Championship being operated and run by Paddon Rallysport, testing and training with Paddon, plus the potential for an expanded programme in 2018.

 

Paddon, who is New Zealand’s most successful rally driver and currently holds fourth in the FIA World Rally Championship’s drivers’ standings, says he is passionate and driven to help the growth of New Zealand rallying.

 

“The Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout and Scholarship is the first step of a plan created earlier this year. We want to help grow the sport and help develop the career of a talented young driver – to give a leg up to the next potential Kiwi international rally star,” Paddon says.

 

Hyundai New Zealand General Manager Andy Sinclair shares the same vision and passion as Paddon to grow the sport of rallying in New Zealand while searching for new young talent.

 

Sinclair explains: "It's incredibly hard for Kiwi drivers to make their way to the highest levels in this spectacular global sport.  We were very proud to have helped Hayden right when he needed to take the step up into a WRC drive; now this scholarship will give one lucky Kiwi driver a huge step forward in their rallying career. As a New Zealand-owned company we are very excited to help find the next Kiwi WRC star."

 

Applications are now open and can be found at http://pinnacleprogramme.co.nz. Follow the instructions online and submit your application and details as prompted. Applications close 19 October 2016.

 

Open to drivers aged 16-25, applicants for the Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout and Scholarship need to have contested a minimum of 10 rallies, including four pace-noted rallies. Paddon and nominated personnel from Hyundai New Zealand will choose five finalists who, with their co-drivers, will attend a two-day shootout course in Auckland in December.

 

The course offers the finalists and their co-drivers a day learning from Paddon’s experience getting to the top of world rallying with theory and advice on fitness, sponsorship, media, car set-up/driving and pace notes. The second day will be in the forest, where finalists will drive the Hyundai NZ i20 AP4 rally car to each set a benchmark time, as well as practical experience writing pace notes with Paddon providing advice in the car. A judging panel of five, including Paddon, will assess each driver/co-driver on all aspects of their performance and participation throughout the shootout.

 

“It’s not just about the fastest driver,” says Paddon. “We’re looking for the whole package – personality, motivation and ability to learn and improve, as well as outright performance during the shootout. The winner may not necessarily be competing in the New Zealand Rally Championship at this stage – we are looking for someone that stands out and has the X factor.”

 

Paddon adds: “To have Hyundai New Zealand as a key partner in this project allows us to provide a support structure and platform to help develop young talent. We haven’t had a scholarship of this magnitude in New Zealand rallying for some years. I was lucky to receive support through a similar scheme – the Rally New Zealand Rising Stars Scholarship – six years ago which helped give me a leg up in the Production World Rally Championship. We see this as an opportunity to do the same thing for another young Kiwi driver.

 

“In the short term, the Hyundai NZ Young Driver Scholarship will focus on a New Zealand-based programme with the winner. It’s a fantastic chance for them to develop as a driver and all-round competitor, with the potential and goal of winning the 2018 New Zealand Rally Championship title as part of the scholarship. This would be a perfect base to work on to take the next step internationally.”

 

Paddon adds: “Later this year, we will also be officially launching the Paddon Foundation which is separate to this scholarship, and will assist more the grass roots level of New Zealand rallying, encouraging and keeping more people into the sport.”

Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard were happier with their performance on the final day of Tour de Corse as they secured sixth position.

 

The New Zealanders delivered a second-quickest stage time on Sunday’s (CEST) opening monster 53.78 km special stage and a fastest spilt time on roads still wet from overnight rain. This result reduced the gap to fifth-placed Craig Breen by over 20 seconds on these final two stages of the World Rally Championship event dubbed the rally of 10,000 corners.

 

“Obviously a tough weekend, but okay, sixth place is still points in the bag,” said Paddon on Sunday evening having struggled to find the pace he felt he should have on this twisty, tarmac rally.

 

“We were able to make some progress today by reverting back to my old natural driving style and going back to basics a little bit. We can be pleased we made some progress today; that’s especially good going into Rally Spain in two weeks’ time. It gives us a bit more confidence, gives us some different information and data we can sit down with over the next week and make sure we come back stronger in Spain.

 

“For sure, I’m not patient enough to not be competitive, so I’m more fired up now more than ever to try and conquer the tarmac, to put all the mindset aside whether it’s tarmac or gravel and just get on and drive the car. I’m looking forward to Rally Spain to make amends for this rally. We want to be more competitive and I know we can compete up the front, we’ve just got to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.”

 

Paddon’s Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Thierry Neuville finished in a strong second place behind rally winner Sebastien Ogier while Dani Sordo secured seventh overall, 30.8 seconds behind Paddon.

 

With the next WRC round in Spain getting underway on 13 October, Paddon and Kennard are also taking the opportunity for more rallying by competing at Rally Legend with Hyundai Italy and the 2014 WRC car over the weekend of 8-9 October. “It’s a chance to go sideways and put on a show for the hundreds of thousands of spectators at this exhibition event based out of San Marino,” says Paddon.

Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard hold sixth place overall after two days of World Rally Championship action on the island of Corsica, but are trying hard to improve their speed on the challenging twisty, tarmac roads.


The Kiwis are competing in the Tour de Corse for the second time and with their current focus to improve performance on the tarmac rallies, on which they have less experience, Paddon clearly hoped to be showing greater pace.


On Friday they started Corsica’s unique itinerary of a few, long stages – just 10 stages in total, virtually all 30km or longer – with the fifth quickest stage time to create a trio of Hyundai drivers in the top five. From there, things got tougher with high temperatures, overheating
tyres and two punctures on Friday afternoon’s two repeated stages.


Saturday’s monster 53.72km opening test in cool conditions saw Paddon and Kennard the fastest crew at the first split, but saying he’d cooked
the brakes and lost confidence on the final two-thirds of the stage, his
resulting time was only eighth quickest.


During the mid-leg service on Saturday (CEST), Paddon said: “I’m not going to beat around the bush, obviously it hasn’t been the best of mornings, because the times are not so good. We’ve got a long regroup now so it’s time to go through the data to try and put our finger on why we’re losing so much time. Inside in the car we’re trying everything we’ve been talking about in previous days to try and improve, but it’s not going so well. Weather’s going to play a part this afternoon so we’ll make sure we’re prepared as we can be.”


While rain threatened, Paddon’s repeated run on the 53.72km test gave him the sixth quickest time, but still not what Paddon was looking to achieve.


Saturday evening Paddon said: “As we’re not in the battle up front, we decided to cross over tyres in the final stage. That changed the balance of the car but we have to try these things.


“Overall, it’s been a trying day today, not what we wanted. We’re just struggling for speed, and are not exactly sure why. We need to work out what’s going on to try and improve. Okay, we’re still in sixth place, but it’s not what we want. One more day to go, so we can try and make some improvements on these final two stages.”


Paddon’s Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Thierry Neuville is in a strong second place and secured a stage win on Saturday’s final test. Dani Sordo made it a Hyundai Motorsport 1-2 in SS8, ending a positive day for the Spanish crew who have now moved back up to seventh overall, 21.2 seconds behind Paddon.


The rally concludes on Sunday (CEST) with another monster 53km stage, plus the 10.42km power stage.

New Zealand’s world rallying duo Hayden Paddon and John Kennard have a clear focus as they head to the famed Tour de Corse rally this weekend.

 

Paddon says they are focused on continually improving their performance on tarmac surface rallies. The 29 September to 2 October French World Rally Championship event marks the second of three consecutive European tarmac rallies at the tail end of the WRC season, so performance on this surface is a vital component of Paddon’s current and future results.

 

“Obviously we want to be more competitive than Germany [where they finished fifth] and I think this rally suits us better, but the goals are not result driven,” says Paddon. “It’s about improvement and progress to be competing at the front in the future.”

 

This is just the second time that Paddon and Kennard have contested the Corsican rally after it returned to the WRC calendar last year. The Kiwis secured a well-deserved fifth place on the rain-interrupted 2015 edition.

 

Paddon says it’s a pleasure to drive the Corsican roads. “This is what I would call a more traditional tarmac rally with wider roads, twisty but flowing. The grip levels are often consistent and you can refer to more a circuit racing type of driving style.”

 

This year, 70 per cent of the special stages are new and the total stage distance is 20 per cent longer. Despite still only having ten special stages – the fewest on the calendar – Tour de Corse is second only to Rally Mexico in terms of its total competitive distance at 390.92 km.

 

“Yes, a lot of the route is new but Corsica is Corsica. It’s called the ‘rally of 10,000 corners’ for a reason as it’s constant corner after corner and most look the same. That’s why pace notes are more important than ever on this rally, something John and I work very hard on.

 

“It’s certainly a unique itinerary, with less but longer stages. But that doesn’t change our approach – we have to be on it from start to finish.”

 

Long-time co-driver John Kennard adds: “The huge number of corners means the average speed is very low, just over 90 km/h, compared to 126 km/h in Finland. But it also means the info coming from the notes is quite relentless and the moments to breath when reading them are sometimes quite few.”

 

Since Rallye Deutschland mid-August, Paddon’s continued to work on his tarmac driving skills.

 

“With the long gap between Germany and Corsica, it’s been a good chance to refresh a little, especially because the next five weeks are going to be crazy busy with four rallies and four tests. This downtime allowed us to investigate a bit what happened in Germany and work on some things to improve from that rally. We have also had some good test sessions with the team.”

 

The rally officially gets underway with a start ceremony on Thursday evening on the west coast of the island before Friday’s schedule covers 157 km of special stages – two stages tackled twice with the added challenge of teams not having a midday service. Saturday is the longest with two loops of two stages totalling 169.04 km. Sunday’s final morning of action in the east comprises just two stages, but includes the longest of the entire rally, the 53.78 km Antisanti-Poggio di Nazza, which will prove decisive ahead of the 10.42 km rally-concluding power stage. Tyre wear on the rough and abrasive asphalt is a consideration while navigating tight, twisty mountain roads often bordered on one side by a rock face and the other a steep drop into the sea.

 

For Tour de Corse, Paddon and Kennard compete under the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team banner in the #20 Hyundai NG i20 WRC, while team-mates Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo are in the #3 and #4 cars respectively competing for the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team. Paddon and Kennard are one of 12 WRC crews competing in the 10th round of this year’s WRC season.

 

Paddon and Kennard hold equal third place on the drivers and co-drivers’ championship points-tables respectively, matching their Hyundai Motorsport team-mates Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul.

Hayden Paddon, with co-driver John Kennard, secured fifth place in ADAC Rallye Deutschland to achieve his pre-event goal, but says there’s a lot more to come.

 

“Obviously to be in the top five is what our goal was going into the rally and it’s a good bank of points, but probably we didn’t achieve it in the way that we wanted to,” said Paddon following the final three of what was meant to be four stages on Sunday (CEST) after organisers had to cancel the penultimate stage due to spectators not staying in the designated areas.

 

Paddon and Kennard completed Sunday’s special stages with three top six times to secure their third fifth place finish of the 2016 FIA World Championship. Paddon said the stages were generally okay as he tried to work on driving techniques to learn for the upcoming tarmac events in Corsica and Spain.

 

“Of course we know we have a lot to improve on tarmac especially when the conditions are wet and a bit more changeable [like they have been this weekend in Germany]. This is a time thing; we just need more time on the surface to build up the confidence.

 

“I think come Corsica, we can be much stronger than what we are here. We know the key areas where we struggled here and these types of stages we don’t get in Corsica.

 

“We’ve got a lot to look forward to and we’re going to work really hard. I think we can build on this and mount a much stronger challenge up the front.”

 

Paddon’s fifth place finish moves him into third in the WRC drivers’ championship on 94 points, equal with team-mate Thierry Neuville. Co-driver John Kennard is in the same position on the WRC co-drivers’ championship table, equal with Neuville’s co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul.

 

“To be back third [equal] in the championship is certainly a good place. We’d like to try and hang on to that for the rest of the year, but it’s going to be a big fight between about four of us, so it’s going to be an exciting last 3-4 rallies of the season.”

 

With Rally China, which should have been an early September event, cancelled due to flood damage of the rally route, the WRC takes an unexpected break until the Tour de Corse, aka the ‘rally of 10,000 corners’ on the French island of Corsica. Paddon and Kennard finished fifth there on debut in 2015.

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.

Hayden Paddon says he’s looking forward to continuing to improve his performance on tarmac surfaces as he and co-driver John Kennard compete in the German World Rally Championship round this coming weekend.

 

The 18-21 August running of ADAC Rallye Deutschland, the first of four consecutive tarmac WRC events, represents the fourth time the Kiwi pair has competed in what’s regarded as the most difficult asphalt event of the season, but it’s only the second time Paddon and Kennard have competed in Germany in a WRC car.

 

“Last year it was a dive into the unknown with our relative lack of experience on tarmac,” said Paddon after testing his New Generation i20 WRC car on a set of closed tarmac roads with Hyundai Motorsport in Germany. “I think my driving on this surface has improved a lot in the last 12 months. It was a good test here and I’m learning all the time.”

 

Paddon’s preparation for the 306.80 km of competition in the Mosel region has included track time in a GT car with the help of French asphalt-specialist rally driver Nicholas Bernadi and further practice on a racing simulator.

 

“I have to be realistic and open minded to learn. I have competed in something like 150 gravel rallies in my life and maybe only seven tarmac rallies. It does require a different driving style and technique and this is something I need to adapt to. The recent track and simulator work has helped a lot.”

 

Paddon says Rallye Deutschland is like three rallies in one. “With the stages varying from narrow vineyard lanes, fast public roads and the bumpy Panzerplatte military area, as well as localised weather generally playing a part, there are lots of challenges to be wary of.

 

“Saturday will be the key day with two passes through the 40 testing kilometres of Panzerplatte. We have seen in the past big gaps emerge here and, with most other stages being shorter, this will be a key test of the rally. There are a couple of new stages but otherwise the route is similar to what we have done in the past.

 

“Overall, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to improve on tarmac. There is no pressure or expectations from myself or the team so the focus is improving for the future so we can start to mount a challenge on asphalt rallies next year.”

 

Based in the city of Trier in the west of Germany, Rallye Deutschland features 306km of competitive action over 18 stages. Friday sees competitors tackle five tests, four of which are in the vineyards of Mosel followed by the new Ollmuth stage, just south of Trier. Saturday is the longest day of the rally with just under 150 competitive kilometres including two runs over Panzerplatte Lang at 40.8km each. Just four stages on Sunday are split between the Mosel vineyards and the Sauertal test in the Eifel hills near the Luxembourg border, which acts as the power stage for the second and final run.

 

The unpredictable late summer weather always makes tyre choice an important factor, placing a premium on up-to-date information from the safety note crews. To add to the complexity, road characteristics can vary significantly even within the same group of stages, meaning that set-up and tyre choice is often a calculated compromise on the low-grip surfaces.

 

Paddon and Kennard compete under the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team banner in the #20 Hyundai NG i20 WRC, while team-mates Thierry Neuville is in the #3 car and Dani Sordo, who returns after an injury lay-off in the #4 car, are competing for the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team. Neuville and Sordo created a historic one-two finish for Hyundai Motorsport at Rallye Deutschland in 2014 and the team is looking to revive this form at their home event just two hours from their headquarters in Alzenau.

Kiwis Hayden Paddon and John Kennard have secured fifth place overall at Rally Finland on Sunday (EEST), after a tight final day battle with Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Thierry Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul.

 

New Zealand’s top rallying pairing finished the eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship with a determined flourish, setting the second-fastest stage time on each of Sunday’s four special stages. In fact, their combined time for the final 34.20 kilometres of competition were fastest of all competitors, but they couldn’t quite catch Neuville, finishing just 2.3 seconds behind the Belgium who took fourth place after both Hyundai drivers benefited from Ott Tanak crashing out of the rally. Neuville was, in turn, just 4.6 seconds off third place, highlighted the close battle for the final podium position which went to Craig Breen, while Kris Meeke took victory from Jari-Matti Latvala.

 

Paddon also took two bonus points for second place in the power stage. He’s now fourth place on the WRC drivers’ championship leader-board with 84 points.

 

Of his seventh appearance at the event dubbed the Finnish Grand Prix, Paddon said: “A difficult rally but we had a good day today. We were the fastest overall today and to get in the top five was good. It’s obviously been trying with the road cleaning over the first two days and we lost a bit too much time earlier on in the rally. We gave it our all but we’ve struggled with the car in the slippery conditions. But considering everything, it’s not a bad result. It was a close fight with Thierry and I’ve really enjoyed these fantastic stages It’s good points and we’re closing in on the guys at the front of the championship.

 

“Now we look forward. We have four tarmac rallies in a row so that’s going to be a very challenging couple of months ahead. We use these rallies as an opportunity to learn as much as we can and to progress, and try to get as close to the front as we can on tarmac as well.”

 

Dutchman Kevin Abbring, in the third New Generation i20 WRC car, claimed his first top-ten finish of the season, so overall it was a positive final day for Hyundai Motorsport with a stage 1-2 in SS22 and in the Power Stage, and both Neuville and Paddon inside the top-five. The result gives Hyundai Motorsport a healthy haul of manufacturer points and helps to solidify the team’s second position in the WRC manufacturers’ championship.

 

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We’ve had a better final day than the rest of the rally, that’s for sure. There’s no hiding from the fact we have had a challenging weekend so to take two stage 1-2s today, including the power stage was a positive way to end the rally. Thierry and Hayden have been involved in a close battle for most of the weekend, which was interesting to watch. Kevin and Seb did everything we expected of them. It was a big task to come to Rally Finland at short notice. They have acquitted themselves very professionally and fully deserve their top-ten finish. We have had a generally reliable weekend with the New Generation i20 WRCs. We just need to understand why we couldn’t get more out of the car on these stages. There are just a few weeks before we compete in Rallye Deutschland, which will be a special event for the whole team - and I’m confident we will come back fighting.”

 

The 18-21 August running of ADAC Rallye Deutschland will be Paddon and Kennard’s fourth time at what is widely recognised as the most difficult tarmac event of the WRC calendar.

Hayden Paddon and John Kennard remain determined to improve as they hold sixth position overall after two full days of action at the FIA World Rally Championship rally dubbed the Finnish Grand Prix.

 

This year’s Rally Finland is proving somewhat frustrating for Paddon as he strives to better his overall position against a very tight bunch of competitors, including Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Thierry Neuville, as competition wrapped up on Saturday (EEST).

 

Back in the service park in the Finnish university town of Jyväskylä on Saturday evening, New Zealand’s top rally driver said: “We’re still in the fight; it’s all very close for a top five position, but we’ve certainly been struggling. We’ve been trying to as much as we can with the driving and the driving’s felt quite okay, but as a team we’re just sort of missing something with the car and we don’t quite have an answer for it. We’ll keep working hard and see if we can make some improvements overnight. We’ve closed the position right up to our team-mate so we’re in a good tight fight with him for tomorrow for a top five. A little frustrating that we’re not where we want to be, but we’ve just got to keep working and see if we can improve.”

 

Earlier, on Friday which featured a huge 7am to 9pm itinerary, the Kiwis steadily improved their overall placing from ninth after Thursday night’s opening short super special stage, to sixth by day’s end.

 

“A difficult day,” said Paddon of Friday’s 11 stages where he ran third on the road behind defending WRC champion Sébastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen as per their current positons on the WRC drivers’ championship leader-board. “We struggled a lot this morning with the loose gravel and having to do a little bit of sweeping so didn’t really adapt to this too well.

 

Completing Friday just 4.4 seconds behind Craig Breen in fifth, Paddon added: “This afternoon was a little bit better; still not exactly where we want to be. but we’re in the fight. We’re only 10 seconds back from the podium and it’s all pretty close. We have to make some big improvements, mainly to myself overnight. We’ll sit down and make sure we come out with some improvements tomorrow to be in the fight.”

 

Saturday saw the rally head into iconic Finnish rally stages including the famed 33 km rollercoaster of Ouninpohja, regarded as the sport’s biggest test of bravery and commitment, being driven in the opposite direction for the first time since 1994.

 

Paddon was happier with their performance on Saturday morning, where their overall position improved to fourth overall, then dipped back to fifth as the intensity of the competition among the top 5-6 drivers continued at the high speeds unique to Finland.

 

“It’s been a much better morning. We’ve been second on the road for most of it [after brake problems delayed road-opener Sébastien Ogier], so it’s good to close the gap to the guys around us. This afternoon’s going to be much better grip and the weather could play a small part. All in all, we’re much happier with how things are going. This afternoon we’ll have a big push and see if we can put up a fight for third or fourth.”

 

But despite their best efforts, Paddon and Kennard couldn’t quite match their competitors’ pace during the afternoon’s repeated loop of four stages to end Saturday back in sixth overall, just 2.7 seconds behind Neuville.

 

Hyundai Motorsport’s Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We can’t take away too many positives from today. We’ve struggled to match the stage times of those cars ahead of us and haven’t set the sort of pace that we’ve seen in the other events this season. It’s a bit frustrating that we have not been able to mount a strong challenge because I am sure we are capable of more. All drivers have reported difficulties with the set-up of the car, and we have to try and identify what we can do for tomorrow. The battle for third place is difficult and as it currently stands we are looking at getting two cars inside the top-five. That would still deliver a good number of points for the manufacturers’ standings. However, it is not in our nature to settle for the top-five so we’ll continue to push and see what we can achieve tomorrow.”

 

The rally concludes on Sunday (EEST) with two stages run twice and no service between the two loops.

Kiwi rally stars Hayden Paddon and John Kennard head to Rally Finland this week expecting the competition to be close at the front of the field.

 

The New Zealanders hold third position on their respective WRC drivers’ and co-drivers’ championship points-tables, so the pair will run third on famously high speed Finnish roads for Friday and Saturday’s special stages.

 

Making their seventh appearance together on the rally dubbed the Finnish Grand Prix, due to its high speeds, Paddon says it’s the event that feels most like home in terms of the roads and the country.

 

“The atmosphere in Finland is also incredible and that makes it an unforgettable rally to be part of,” says the Hyundai Motorsport driver, the only New Zealander with a full-time drive in the FIA World Rally Championship.

 

Kennard, Paddon’s long-time co-driver, adds: “I think nowadays you’d have to say Finland is my home rally, as I spend more time living here than in Blenheim! And like Rally New Zealand, it has such a fantastic character that it completely overwhelms you, even when you’ve competed here many times before.”

 

Paddon says the target for the 28 to 31 July rally is to keep being competitive at the front.

 

“We are at that point [career-wise] where we expect to be competitive on all gravel events, but stringing the results together comes down to so many variables given that the competition is so close. Variables such as weather, road position, strategy on the day and preparation are all vital. It’s fair to say we give it 110% at every event we go to in order to keep building towards our ultimate goal.”

 

Finland is the European WRC event of which Paddon and Kennard have the most experience, yet organisers have compiled a route for the 2016 event which is 43% different to last year’s.

 

“There’s a lot of this year’s rally which has a different configuration, but the character and the challenges – fast stages, lots of jumps and lots of speed – that make Finland so unique remain the same.

 

“Our only disadvantage this year is that our retirement here last year means we missed most of the stages that remain unchanged this year. But we have done those stages in 2014 and studied all the stages a lot in the build-up, so the changes are just one of those things we work through in our preparation for every event.”

 

Of the route changes, Kennard says: “As usual with new notes, you have to work harder at ensuring the linking of the notes is done well, so you know just when the next bit of information has to be read. Luckily, as Finland is a relatively smooth rally, there's not so much tidying of notes required, so it gives us the time we need to work on this with the recce videos.”

 

Based in the university town of Jyväskylä, the rally draws huge crowds with its classic, smooth, high speed gravel stages and massive jumps.

 

The Neste Rally Finland gets underway on Thursday evening a street stage in Jyväskylä before Friday’s route takes the 17 WRC competitors west for a series of classic forest challenges. On Saturday they head south for eight tests including two runs of the legendary Ouninpohja stage. The rally concludes on Sunday in the south-east into areas that have not seen WRC cars this millennium.

 

Fresh from their pre-event test with Hyundai Motorsport, Paddon says they enjoyed a successful day-and-a-half test where they refine the setup from the most recent gravel WRC event in Poland.

 

“The harder base and wider roads in Finland requite a bit more precision. We know the New Generation i20 WRC is working very well on fast stages so that’s in our favour. I also feel compared to Poland that Finland plays into both my and the car hands a bit more.”

 

Paddon and Kennard will be joined in Finland by Hyundai Motorsport team-mates Thierry Neuville and Kevin Abbring in Finland following a pre-event test accident during which Dani Sordo sustained an injury.

Hayden Paddon and John Kennard have secured third place at Rally Poland, the first time the Kiwis have finished on this step of the podium.

 

Third place in Poland represents the third podium finish in the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship for the New Zealanders who also finished second in Sweden and won in Argentina. The result also moves Paddon into third place in the WRC drivers’ championship.

 

“We’re really happy to come home with a podium,” said Paddon who finished just 2.3 seconds behind Ott Tanak after 21 competitive stages, who dropped to second with a puncture after leading for most of the rally, handing Andres Mikkelsen the win.

 

“It obviously got pretty close there at the end,” he added referring to Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Thierry Neuville finishing a mere 0.8 seconds behind in fourth. “Our objective today was to secure third position rather than push for second, so we wanted to be relaxed. I think we probably eased off too much. Third is a great result, irrespective of how close it was - just 0.8 seconds!”

 

The seventh WRC round of the year wrapped with a wet and slippery morning of action on Sunday (CEST), in contrast to the warm, sunny summer conditions of the previous three days. The WRC competitors run in reverse classification order which put Paddon and Kennard 13th on the road.

 

“They were very, very tricky conditions and it was very hard to judge your speed,” Paddon said, having set the fifth quickest time in all four Sunday stages. “The rain made the stages very slippery and overall today was tricky, having to try and control the position, but in the end we got good points and got the result.

 

“So that’s our first third place and it takes a huge amount of weight of my shoulders after what’s happened recently. The result gives us really good confidence moving forward and I’m really happy to get things back on track.

 

“Huge thanks to the team and congratulations to everyone on a job well done. It’s been a good three days of rallying. We’re really looking to Finland now, a rally that suits us more and a rally that we enjoy.”

 

Paddon’s third place gives Hyundai Motorsport its second ever Rally Poland podium, following a top-three for Neuville back in 2014.

 

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “That was an intense final morning so I am delighted that we have secured our third and fourth with Hayden and Thierry. The conditions were some of the most difficult we’ve seen this season so it was a relief to confirm our positions. As a team, we have had a good weekend, taking our second Polish podium. It was never going to be an easy rally but the car, team, drivers and co-drivers performed well. It’s good to see Hayden return to the top-three and for Thierry to finish strongly with a Power Stage point. Unfortunately, Dani was caught out on the penultimate stage. The impact with the bank caused significant damaged to his car, so he was forced to end the rally having moved into the top-ten. As always, there are lessons to learn from the pressurised WRC competition, but we are reassured by the performance of the New Generation i20 WRC on the fast stages here in Poland. We can look forward to another high-speed test in Finland later this month.”

Kiwis Hayden Paddon and John Kennard have continued to focus on their own performance at Rally Poland to hold third place overall with one day to go.

 

Going into the seventh World Rally Championship event of the season, running 1-3 July, Paddon said he was taking a back to basics approach and simply enjoy the thrill of driving on Poland’s high speed roads.

 

The change in mind-set appears to be working for the driver originally from Geraldine and his Blenheim-based co-driver as they tackle the very fast, sandy roads which comprise the summery Polish rally.

 

The pair set a seventh-quickest time on the rally’s opening super special arena stage on Thursday night (CEST), then leapt up the leader-board into second by winning on Friday’s first full rally stage. Running fifth on the road – as dictated by their pre-event championship position – Paddon and Kennard spent all Friday dicing with Ott Tanak and Andreas Mikkelsen at the front of the field, securing two more stage wins along the way, but ultimately having to cede second to Mikkelsen. (Paddon has now won 18 WRC stages in his career to make him the most successful New Zealand rally driver to date.)

 

Following Friday’s eight stage itinerary, Paddon said: “It’s been a good day. It’s obviously pleasing to get to the end of a day at a rally as it’s felt like a long time since we’ve done that [referencing the two DNF results at the previous two rallies in Portugal and Sardinia].

 

“The fight’s very close. To win three stages today and to be within seven seconds [quote prior to Friday’s super special stage] of the lead, it’s all very tight. This morning was a good loop for us, everything felt comfortable and the times were coming easily. I struggled a bit more this afternoon as the conditions were quite rough and we didn’t really adapt the car setup well enough.

 

“Tomorrow the aim is to keep going at this pace; we’re not prepared to take massive risks. We need to let the times come to us so we just have to make some small adjustments tonight and be back on it tomorrow.”

 

Going into Saturday’s seven stages, Paddon and Kennard were 10.2 seconds behind rally leader Tanak and six seconds behind Mikkelsen in second, while also holding a 6.1 second margin over championship leader Sebastien Ogier in fourth.

 

The Kiwis had another consistent and strong day behind the wheel of their New Generation Hyundai i20 WRC car with a string of top five times to keep the pressure on Tanak and Mikkelsen throughout Saturday.

 

With only a tyre-fitting zone at lunchtime, not a regular service, Paddon said: “It’s not been a bad morning. We’re trying to enjoy the first pass as much as we can before it gets too rough. On the soft tyre even in these very hot conditions, it’s moving around a little bit. I haven’t been adapting to this well enough, but am really pleased with how the car’s feeling. We’ve improved it overnight. It’s still very close between us and Andreas on the podium. Ott is doing a good job a bit further in front, but we’ll just concentrate on our own rally.”

 

Paddon and Kennard finished Saturday still in third place with a relatively consistent 6.5 second margin to Mikkelsen in second and a 15.7 second gap back to their Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville in fourth.

 

Paddon said: “It’s been a good day. To be consistently up challenging the leaders has been good. The car’s been performing really well. Just a few things with the driving I’m trying to get on top of, but all in all to be in a strong third place and not far off second is a good place to go into the last day.

 

“This rally’s not over. We’re expecting some rain overnight, if the rain does eventuate, we know the roads here become very, very slippery if wet. So all of a sudden a five second gap is not so big. We’ll hope for a bit of rain overnight because then that can give us a better chance and we’ll keep pushing on and see what result comes at the end of the rally.”

 

Sunday’s final leg of Rally Poland sees competitors tackle two stages run twice, including the bonus point-earning power stage.

Hayden Paddon has expressed his determination to come back stronger as well as his disappointment in himself following his retirement from the second World Rally Championship event in a row.

 

Paddon and long-time co-driver John Kennard were forced to retire from Rally Italia Sardegna following an off-road excursion on Friday afternoon (European time) which left their brand-new Hyundai i20 WRC car too damaged to be repaired by the team overnight.

 

“Obviously it’s very disappointing to end the rally in this fashion,” said Paddon from the rally’s service park in the coastal resort town of Alghero in the north-west of Sardinia.

 

“I can only say that I’m sorry to the team. It was another very silly mistake,” he said, referencing the incident which took the New Zealand pairing out of the previous event in Portugal where, following a small error, their car burned to the ground.

 

“We were just trying to have a clean afternoon after the problems we were having in the morning. We were going at a good speed, but just got caught out by doing too wide on the tarmac for the last left-hand corner of stage seven. We got sucked into the gravel and couldn’t turn the car in and then we were a passenger from there.”

 

The car rolled down a slope, causing considerable damage the rear.

 

“It’s a very hard pill to swallow to have two rallies in a row end like this from very silly mistakes. Okay, I’m sure we’ll come back stronger and we’ll sit down and go through things substantially to learn from this and to be stronger in the future, but this is not what I expect of myself and we need to be better; we will make sure we come back stronger.”

 

Earlier on Friday, Paddon and Kennard started the day’s scheduled eight stages strongly with a second quickest time through SS2. Then a spin in SS4 saw them hit a wall in the resulting cloud of dust which broke a rear toe-arm. They were able to replace the rear suspension during the touring stage to SS5, and then bounced back to the top of the stage times with a third quickest time. Following the midday service, Paddon and Kennard also secured the third-fastest time on stage six.

 

Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “It was another disappointing retirement for Hayden. He is quick to acknowledge what happened and we appreciate his honesty; this is rallying and these things happen.”

 

Having assessed the damage to the i20 to see if it could be repaired and allow Paddon to be able to re-join for Saturday’s action under Rally 2 regulations, the team concluded this was not possible, thus confirming Paddon’s retirement from the rally.

 

Meanwhile, Hyundai Motorsport enjoyed seeing Paddon’s team-mate Thierry Neuville leading the event with Dani Sordo holding sixth. Rally Italia Sardegna continues on Saturday and Sunday, while Paddon may return to his European base early.

New Zealand’s world rally stars Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are determined to come back fighting at this week’s FIA World Rally Championship rally on the Italian island of Sardinia.

 

From the highs of their first-ever WRC win in Argentina, the Kiwis suffered a tough blow in Portugal, after their car caught fire following an off-road excursion on the opening day. But with their trademark determination, Paddon and Kennard have put that drama behind them as they make their third start on the narrow, rocky roads of Sardinia, an event which marks their second anniversary with Hyundai Motorsport and their first WRC podium finish last year.

 

Paddon’s crew returned from Portugal earlier than the rest of the Hyundai Motorsport team to begin work on a new i20 WRC car and impressively turned around the job in just seven working days. At the same time, the team also carried out its pre-event test in Sardinia with all four driver crews – Paddon, Dani Sordo, Thierry Neuville and Kevin Abbring – spending one full day each preparing for the event.

 

“The boys did an amazing job building the new car,” said Paddon. “They had a spare bare shell but then everything needed sourced or made which was the big part of the job. I was able to get to the workshop a couple of times, and as much as I would have liked to be helping, in this environment it's best to leave to the experts. But hats off to them all for a job well done.

 

“To go straight into a really good test day is also positive. We were able to clarify the problems from Portugal, but also find some small steps forward with other parts of the car – it’s the best feeling I have had driving the New Generation i20 WRC. We are still learning and developing new setups with this car every time we drive it.”

 

Hosted in the coastal resort town of Alghero in the north-west of Sardinia, Italy’s summer WRC round is a rough, rock-strewn gravel challenge that often favours a lower road position. Ambient temperatures can top 30 degrees Celsius and cause strain on engines, tyres, components and crews as the cockpits reach 50-plus over a stage.

 

Starting fourth on the road for Friday and Saturday’s long sets of special stages, Paddon says: “Rally Italia Sardegna is a very tricky rally due to its rough narrow roads and high temperatures. We have some new stages on day one but day two – the longest of the rally with 177 competitive kilometres – is similar to previous two years. The key is to set a consistent pace from the start and try to stay out of trouble.

 

“This rally generally has a lot of sweeping for the earlier runners so being fourth on the road won’t be as advantageous as we had last year [when Paddon and Kennard were 11th on the road]. However our main rivals are ahead of us on the road and we have to take advantage of that. Generally, grip levels are quite high on the second pass.

 

Paddon adds: “It’s not a rally I used to enjoy, but with it marking our second anniversary with the team and since our first podium, it’s now an event I look forward to. This will also be our first time doing an event in a WRC car for the third time, that alone will help a lot.”

 

Following the dramatic fire in Portugal, Paddon says he’s more determined than ever. “Particularly to repair the work the guys have done. We have left no stone unturned in our preparation and aiming to compete near the front.”

 

Kennard says returning to Sardinia after last year’s podium means they both have a very positive feeling, despite Portugal.

 

“Add to this, our very good pre-event test and our confidence levels have stayed high,” says Paddon’s Blenheim-based co-driver. “The biggest challenge in Sardinia is probably the heat – it’s always hot and sunny. On test we had 35°C, but luckily it looks like the rally maybe a bit cooler. The technical stages also mean there's quite a bit of information in the notes to capture during reconnaissance and then convey to Hayden during the rally.”

 

Rally Italia Sardegna is often a rally of attrition, as ruts and rocks form car-damaging hazards especially during the repeat run of each stage. The rally opens with a new Ittiri Arena Show super special near the service park location in Alghero on Thursday evening before eight tests on Friday to the east of Alghero, including the all-new Tula stage. Saturday’s six stages total a massive 177 competitive kilometres with two repeated runs on two 22km tests and the rally’s longest stage of 44.26km. The final day, Sunday, takes place just north of Alghero with the picturesque Cala Flumini coastal road and the new Sassari-Argentiera stage, which forms the event’s 6.96km power stage.

 

Paddon says as a medium speed event, the narrow nature of the stages makes this a technical rally. “There some tyre tactics in play on the first loop but generally on the second pass we’ll all run the hard compound option.”

 

The New Zealanders are running car #3 for the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team with team-mates Dani Sordo and Marc Marti in the #4 i20. Kevin Abbring will join Thierry Neuville in the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team in the #10 and #20 cars respectively – the second time Hyundai Motorsport has fielded a four car team this season.

Kiwi rally stars Hayden Paddon and John Kennard will take no further part in Rally de Portugal, having rolled their Hyundai i20 WRC rally car on Friday afternoon (European time) and the car then burning to the ground.

 

Paddon and Kennard were thankfully unharmed in the incident which Paddon said was started by a relatively small accident as their car rolled down a bank. With Paddon and Kennard still in the car, the heat from the car’s exhaust set surrounding trees alight. The pair quickly escaped the car, able to save only their crash helmets, before the resultant fire destroyed the #3 New Generation i20 WRC car within five minutes. Another competitor, Ott Tanak, crashed in the same place and was able to prevent his Ford also going up in flames.

 

“Obviously not the rally result we wanted,” said Paddon on his return to the service park in the host city of Matosinhos, in the north of Portugal.

 

“This afternoon, on the first stage after service, we got caught out with a hole on the inside of a corner which kicked the car out to the bank, then put it down off the road. The accident itself was not so big, but unfortunately the exhaust caught fire with the bushes and the rest is history. Unfortunately, the car burnt to the ground, so there’s not much left that’s salvageable. It’s pretty cruel, a pretty hard pill to swallow with the consequences a lot more than the accident actually warranted.

 

“I feel really sorry for the team; they’ve got a big task ahead to get ready for our next event in Sardinia in early June. Of course we’ll come back stronger, so we’ll focus on that now and put this one behind us.”

 

The New Zealanders were in sixth place overall among a close-fought top eight before the rally-ending incident, having completed the first three stages of Friday’s eight-stage itinerary. Running second on the road behind three-time world champion Sébastien Ogier, Paddon said: “We started the morning quite well despite some small technical niggles. We didn’t lose too much time and were definitely keeping in touch. We were hoping to close the gap in the afternoon loop, but it wasn’t to be.”

 

Regulations do not allow the team to put Paddon and Kennard into a team-mate’s car to continue competing in the rally, so they have officially retired from the event which continues on Saturday and Sunday with Citroën driver Kris Meeke in the lead ahead of Ogier and Paddon’s Hyundai team-mate Dani Sordo.

 

Paddon and Kennard return to WRC competition next month with the 9-12 June running of Rally Sardinia, an event where they secured their first-ever WRC podium finish in 2015.

Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard head to the Portuguese round of the FIA World Rally Championship with a business-as-usual attitude.


The New Zealanders’ success with their maiden WRC round win in Argentina – with a maximum points’ haul for winning both the rally and the power stage – less than four weeks ago has given the pair confidence they can fight at the top of the running order, but Paddon says his feet are on the ground for the 19-22 May rally.


“It’s very much business as usual,” Paddon said following a two-day test in his New Generation Hyundai i20 WRC car in Portugal which leads into a string of European rallies where Paddon and Kennard have more experience than the two long-haul events in Argentina and Mexico.


“While the confidence is high, our feet are still firmly on the ground. The challenge is greater now with the expectations of our performance and our road position, as being second in the championship behind Sébastien Ogier, we’ll be second on the road for Friday and Saturday’s legs. We’ll stick to our original plan for this season, and maintain our focus to keep improving event by event.”


Paddon and Kennard’s win in Argentina was the first for Hyundai’s 2016-spec i20 rally car – as well as making New Zealand motorsport history as the first-ever WRC round win for a New Zealand driver and co-driver. Paddon says victory in the current spec car was also very positive for the team.


“I think it naturally lifts the motivation within the team somewhat. However, we are all hungry for more and it’s good to know that we are all capable of winning, especially as there is more to come in terms of our and the car’s performance.”


Of the rally ahead, Paddon says: “Our road position means the first pass of the sandy stages will certainly be looser and more challenging. However, the main person we are focused on for this rally is to stay as close to Seb as we can while in equal conditions. In the future this is the position we need to be fighting from.


“I enjoy this rally, although I would describe it as a medium speed event which doesn’t fit my natural style as much as other faster events. However, our performance in these slower, more technical events is an area we have been improving a lot recently, so we will continue that here. The roads can be quite technical and require a lot of information from the pace notes, so that keeps John very busy preparing for and during the rally.”


Paddon says their test focussed on suspension settings, and developing setup strategies for the rally where tyre choice and management is critical.


“It has been a very wet winter here in Portugal and our test was quite wet which was not ideal. While the forecast for the rally is hot and sunny, recent wet weather will mean the roads are soft and we expect it to cut up and get rutted, with exposed rocks, a lot more than normal which will certainly have an impact for all on the second pass, especially given the big field of entries.”


This is the fifth time Paddon and Kennard have competed in Portugal and they’ll be one of 19 WRC competitors.


The rally returned to the country’s north to the host city of Matosinhos, north of Porto, last year and this year’s route of 368 competitive kilometres is very similar to last year, which levels the playing field for all WRC regulars. The New Zealanders are running car #3 for the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team with team-mates Dani Sordo and Marc Marti in the #4 i20. Kevin Abbring will join Thierry Neuville in the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team in the #10 and #20 cars respectively – the first time Hyundai Motorsport has fielded a four car team this season.


A Thursday afternoon ceremonial start at Guimarães will be followed by an evening super special stage at Lousada rallycross circuit. Friday’s route heads north for stages around Ponte de Lima, near the Spanish border. Saturday’s route, the longest of the rally, journeys east for tests near Amarante, and Sunday’s leg has just three stages, with the focus on the classic Fafe test.

Kiwi rally drivers Hayden Paddon and John Kennard have made history with their victory at Rally Argentina as the first New Zealanders to ever win a round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

 

Paddon delivered the drive of his life on the very last challenge of the rally – the famed, mountainous, rock-strewn El Condor special stage – to wrench the rally victory from three-time WRC champion Sébastien Ogier on Sunday afternoon (Argentinean time). The Paddon, originally from Geraldine, now holds second place in the WRC drivers’ championship with 57 points to Ogier’s 96 – the highest-ever championship position for a Kiwi rally driver.

 

Paddon and Kennard, from Blenheim, started Sunday’s final three-stage leg of Rally Argentina in the lead with a margin of 29.8 seconds over Ogier. The first fog-affected run through El Condor saw Ogier take 7.4 seconds out of Paddon’s lead as Paddon lost precious seconds with a gear-change issue. Special stage 17 saw Ogier deliver a blistering run which cut Paddon’s lead to a mere 2.6 seconds with just the final power stage to go. But Paddon stood up to the Frenchman’s challenge, saying he drove the wheels off his new generation Hyundai 120 WRC car to secure not only his first power stage win, but also his debut WRC rally win.

 

“It’s an amazing feeling, to win like this, on the last stage where the odds were a little bit against us,” said Paddon at the rally finish. “We lost a lot of time in the previous stage and just over two seconds margin going into that last one – I didn’t have a lot of confidence, but we just pushed like hell.

 

“We’ve worked a lot on that stage in the three weeks before the rally because I’ve not been particularly strong on the tight and twisty stages. It’s a fantastic result for me, John and the whole team. A huge amount of work has gone into the New Generation i20 WRC. I knew from the first test that we could win with it. I just didn’t quite expect it to be so soon.

 

“Everyone in the team, at the rallies and at Alzenau, thoroughly deserves this result. I am sure it’s the start of a lot more to come! I am thankful for everyone who has supported us back home in New Zealand and for all the positive messages we’ve received this weekend.”  

 

In what has been a history-making weekend of competition, Paddon won five WRC stages, bringing his total WRC stage victories to 15. He’s the second driver from the Southern Hemisphere to win a WRC round (the first being Argentina’s Jorge Recalde who won his home rally in a Lancia in 1988 and in again in a drivers-only round in 1995).

 

The event victory gives Paddon’s team, Hyundai Motorsport, its first win on a gravel event with Paddon’s team-mate Thierry Neuville having delivered the only other WRC event win for Hyundai on the German tarmac in 2014. It’s also the first win in the new generation Hyundai i20 WRC car in only its fourth outing.

 

All three Hyundai Motorsport crews finished in the top six with Dani Sordo fourth overall and second to Paddon in the points-earning power stage to equal his best result of the season so far and Neuville was sixth to allow Hyundai Motorsport to improve its manufacturers’ championship standing.

 

Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “This is a rally weekend that we will never forget! Hayden has put in the performance of his career to take one of the most popular victories we’ve seen in WRC in recent times. His pace and commitment in the power stage was impressive; he and John both deserve this win. It’s fantastic for all of us at Hyundai Motorsport. It is our second win in WRC but the first with our New Generation i20 WRC in only its fourth event. We’ve worked so hard on this car so to see the fruit of our work is very special. All our drivers and team members can share in this moment. Dani and Thierry also fought hard to overcome a few difficulties this weekend to score crucial championship points. We have never had a one-two in the Power Stage before, so that was just the icing on the cake. While we will enjoy this moment, we know there is more to do so we will continue to push development of the New Generation i20 WRC. Portugal is next with a new set of demands and challenges.”

 

Prior to the next WRC round in Portugal toward the end of May, Paddon and Kennard fly back to New Zealand to compete in the International Rally of Whangarei (29 April-1 May) in the New Zealand-built Hyundai i20 rally car in which they secured an astounding record-breaking win at Rally Otago just the week before Argentina. The New Zealand rally project sees Paddon compete in a car, the chassis of which has been built to relatively new AP4 (Asia Pacific) regulations, designed to foster rallying and other competitors in New Zealand.

New Zealanders Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are leading the rough, rocky Argentinian round of the FIA World Rally Championship at the conclusion of Saturday’s action. The pair has a margin of 29.8 seconds over three-time WRC champion Sébastien Ogier going into Sunday’s final three competitive stages and could take out their first-ever WRC rally victory.

 

Having held a strong second place in the overall standings for much of Friday and Saturday in their new generation Hyundai i20 WRC car, the Kiwis moved to the top of the leader-board when rally leader Jari-Matti Latvala crashed heavily on special stage 14 on Saturday afternoon.

 

From the commencement of Friday’s competitive stages, Paddon and Kennard have been mixing stage times and places with Latvala and Ogier, Volkswagen’s two top drivers. On Friday, they secured their 11th WRC stage win to match the New Zealand record set by the late, great Possum Bourne during his career. On Saturday, they secured three more WRC stage wins to bring their total to 14. On the 19.71km special stage 10, Paddon blitzed his rivals with a record-making stage time of 9 minutes 58.3 seconds and was the only one to break the 10-minute barrier.

 

Speaking at Saturday’s midday service break back in the rally’s host city of Villa Carlos Paz, 700km west of Buenos Aires, Paddon said: “A good morning. Obviously we were going to push this morning and we were able to do that. The feeling in the car was very good, particularly in the fast sections. There were a few [hairy] moments here and there, but you’re always going to have those when you’re trying. We lost a little bit too much in the last technical stage this morning, but we’ve been able to build a good solid gap to Seb Ogier behind us now in the third and we’ve been able to maintain the gap, 10 seconds to Jari. It’s difficult to catch Jari on speed alone, but we’ve just got to keep the pressure on and anything can still happen.”

 

Wrapping up Saturday’s action following Latvala’s crash and his move to the top of the leader-board, Paddon said: “A very good day today. We’re very surprised to be leading the rally but it’s a nice position to be in. Following a good morning, we unfortunately struggled a bit this afternoon with the tyre choice. It’s very unfortunate what happened to Jari with his accident but we were close enough to put on the pressure and pick up the pieces.

 

“There’s still a long way to go with very tough stages,” added Paddon as he chases his maiden WRC victory in only his second full season competing at the top of world rally sport. “We have to try and stay relaxed tonight and calm tomorrow because a 30sec lead over a three-time world champion on some of the toughest stages in the championship is not a big gap. We’ll try to keep a good speed and try and make no mistakes tomorrow.”

 

Paddon’s Hyundai Motorsport team-mates Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville are holding fourth and seventh respectively.

 

This is not the first time Paddon and Kennard have led a WRC event – in 2015, they topped the leader-board at Rally Italy Sardinia for 15 stages before a spin which meant they secured their first-ever second place in a WRC event. Since then, they secured another second place at this year’s Rally Finland.

 

Sunday’s final leg of Rally Argentina comprises 55.28 competitive kilometres broken into three stages, including two runs in the famed El Condor stage with its moonlike landscape among the rock-strewn roads of the Traslasierra mountains. The sunshine from earlier in the weekend is due to give way to rain and much cooler temperatures, so the final day could yet spring surprises. 

Top Kiwi rally driver Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard have secured a hard-fought fifth place at Rally Mexico which finished on Sunday afternoon (Central Standard Time), and Paddon departs Central America even more determined to up his game on his favoured gravel surface in coming World Rally Championship events. 


In what was Paddon’s 50th WRC start, the Mexican rally delivered typical tough, hot conditions. The New Zealanders had a number of challenges to overcome including two broken suspension arms, mechanical issues creating by the high temperatures and heavily-gravelled stages. 


Coming into Sunday’s final two stages, they held a relatively comfortable fifth place, but needed to balance speed and caution to ensure they safely reached the finish. Paddon’s pace through Sunday morning’s monster 80 km stage earned him a top three stage time and he carried that assurance into the final test, the points-earning power stage, to again set the third quickest time and earn his first power stage bonus point. 


The 28-year-old professional rally driver said it was definitely a character-building weekend. “We’ve had our issues and all in all, it’s good to come home and achieve our goal of a top five result. It just goes to show you’ve got to be patient on these sort of rallies when things aren’t going quite right. 


“There’s still a lot of positives to take forward. We had some good times; we were in the top three quite often but at the same time there’s still some things to work on for the future.” 


Paddon’s top five finish made it two Hyundai i20 WRC cars inside the top five in Mexico with team-mate Dani Sordo and co-driver Marc Marti securing a well-deserved third place, making it a hat-trick of podium finishes for Hyundai Motorsport in the opening three WRC rounds. 


Prior to Mexico, Paddon and Sordo were equal fourth on the WRC drivers’ championship leader-board with 18 points each. Now Sordo holds fourth place with 33 points and Paddon is in fifth with 29 points. 


“Overall we scored good strong points here. There’s a good fight going in the championship within the top five and I’m sure that’s going to go on season long. We’re going to work hard now before Argentina and the following gravel rallies to get closer to the front and put a bit more pressure on those guys.” 


Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “It is a good feeling to finish with two cars inside the top-five - and to score a hat-trick of podiums with Dani in third place. We have now seen each of our driver crews on the podium this year - and we’re only three events into the season. The results are good but they don’t necessarily tell the story of what has been an incredibly tough rally. We’ve had the longest stage of the season - the 80km run this morning - as well as tough conditions, which have really put the New Generation i20 WRC under pressure. We’ve learned a lot about the car this weekend with some room for improvement but a generally satisfactory performance. The cars have survived a difficult rally, which can only give us optimism for the rest of the season. Well done to Dani and Marc for their fantastic podium, Hayden and John for their fifth place, and to the entire team for a professional job in the circumstances. Of course, it’s a shame that Thierry couldn’t complete the rally but he’s feeling determined to fight back in Argentina. We said we’d be able to evaluate the performance of our New Generation i20 WRC more accurately after the first three rounds, and with podiums in Monte-Carlo, Sweden and now Mexico, we have to target the top-three in all remaining events of the season. It’s an ambitious target but I think we’ve shown we have what it takes, even in the harshest of rallies.” 


Paddon and Kennard have a break from WRC competition – but not their training and preparation – for seven weeks until Rally Argentina running 21-24 April. Mexico, Argentina and Australia are the current three long-haul rallies of the predominantly Europe-based championship.

New Zealanders Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard hold fifth place with one day to go at Rally Mexico. 


The pair has overcome two broken suspension arms, which dropped them to sixth place twice, niggling mechanical issues with their New Generation Hyundai i20 WRC car and the high temperatures of the heavily-gravelled stages during the first two full days of the event (which runs 3-6 March). 


Regarded as one of the toughest, hottest events of the FIA World Rally Championship, the mountainous Mexican special stages were always going provide plenty of learning opportunities for Paddon and Kennard who are contesting this event for just the second time since they first started their partnership in the WRC with a production-spec car in 2010. To be in fifth place on this unfamiliar and unforgiving rally, which also marks Paddon’s 50th WRC start, is a commendable effort. 


The Kiwis came through Thursday evening’s first three super special stages run in front of massive crowds in the streets of Guanajuato, UNESCO World Heritage Site, and León's motor racing circuit to hold sixth overall. Paddon commented: “The atmosphere tonight has been amazing – it has been about the fans today and not the driving. Super special stages are an area for me to work on, but tonight was not so bad.” 


They commenced the first full day of gravel action on Friday morning, running fourth on the road thanks to Paddon’s fourth-equal place in the WRC drivers’ championship coming into this third round of the WRC season. 


They returned to the midday service in sixth place, only 7.4 seconds behind Mads Ostberg in fifth, with Paddon saying: “A difficult morning, obviously not the start we wanted. Firstly, we got the tyre choice a little bit wrong going out on the hard compound this morning, but we tried to limit the time loss as much as we can. And then on the last proper stage, we broke a suspension arm. We were lucky to get through and replace the arm after the stage and still be back here in service. We can already see this rally’s creating quite a bit of carnage or problems. There’s a long way to go and I’m sure we can try and claw some time back.” 


Setting more competitive times during the afternoon with third and fourth-fastest stage times, the Kiwis were able to take fifth from Ostberg, who also picked up a 10sec penalty for a jump start. 


“This afternoon has been better, we got the tyre choice right, but still just some little issues inside the car – little technical problems which you can expect with a new car like this on gravel for the first time. We’ll press the reset button tonight. The position’s still okay, we’re in the top five, but I obviously want to improve to we’ll work on that tomorrow.” 


As Saturday’s nine stages got underway, Paddon was pleased with the changes he and his engineers made to the car overnight. 


“They certainly helped with the feeling and we were able to push a bit harder,” he said during Saturday’s midday service break. “But unfortunately early on in the long stage we broke the same suspension arm as yesterday, so we lost two minutes getting out of the stage. We’re still here. We only lost one position and now we have a bit of a fight on our hands to try and make up that one minute to fifth place again. We’ll certainly put up a fight to try and do that. Not all is lost, a long way to go and we can continue improving.” 


Finishing Saturday with four top-four times and two top-three times to his credit, Paddon said: “Another tough day, but the positive from the day is that we’re still going. We’ve been able to hold our top five result despite the issues with a few little overheating problems this afternoon. It’s been a trying and challenging rally so far. Obviously the result is not so bad, so we’re quite lucky in that respect. We just need to try and bring it home tomorrow.” 


Paddon is 53 seconds behind Mads Ostberg in fourth and has a lead of more two minutes over Ott Tanak in sixth place. 


Paddon’s Hyundai Motorsport team-mates have had mixed fortunes. Dani Sordo is fighting hard in third place while a second crash for Thierry Neuville on Saturday means he will take no further part in the weekend’s rally.

There’s always something more to learn for star Kiwi rally driver Hayden Paddon and his co-driver John Kennard as they head to Mexico’s World Rally Championship event this week. 


Fresh from a career-best equalling second place at Rally Sweden in their New Generation i20 World Rally Car (WRC), Paddon and Kennard are looking forward to the gravel surface of Rally Mexico (3-6 March) and to furthering their knowledge of this tough, hot rally. 


“It’s really good being back on gravel; even in our recent test it felt much more comfortable,” Paddon says. “However, Mexico and Argentina (WRC round four) are two events that don’t suit us as well as the following gravel rallies back in Europe, so our target is to improve and adapt to these unique challenges of the heat and harsh gravel terrain. We will focus on continuing to learn more about the Mexican stages – it’s an event we don’t have a lot of experience of, having competed here only once before and missing much of the first day last year.” 


In 2015, a small error on Friday’s second stage resulted in broken suspension, meaning Paddon and Kennard retired for the day and restarted on Saturday, eventually finishing 17th. 


Paddon heads to Mexico fourth equal with Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Dani Sordo in the WRC drivers’ championship. With the running order for Friday and Saturday decided by championship position, due to their overall higher finishes in the previous two events, Paddon will start ahead of Sordo. 


“This is good for the team as we are not scoring manufacturer points on this event,” Paddon says. “It means we can help sweep the road a little for Dani. We found here last year when we were first on the road, having re-started on Saturday, that the further up you are, it’s very slippery. So fourth on the road is not ideal for us. However, Sébastien Ogier will still be the benchmark and he is running first on the road – that’s just how it works with the running order.” 


The challenges in Mexico include ambient temperatures pushing 30°C – a far cry from recent colder conditions in Monte-Carlo and Sweden – which places huge stress on cars and crews. The unforgiving gravel roads become heavily rutted by the second pass. Altitude is an extra test with the mountains around Guanajuato reaching 2,737 metres elevation above sea level. The thin air places further stress on engines, meaning cars can lose up to 20% power. 


The 2016 edition of Rally Mexico includes the gigantic 80km Guanajuato stage on Sunday morning, the longest WRC stage since 1983, plus nine short super special and street stages – something that Paddon admits aren’t his favourite. 


Paddon comments: “Nowadays all drivers should be fit enough for the challenge of Sunday’s massive 80km stage, so the approach stays the same. The biggest factor for a stage like this will be looking after tyres as this is a big unknown for everyone. 


“Having so many super special stages in this rally gives us an opportunity to improve and find the techniques to go faster in these short sprints. It’s also an area we will spend time on throughout the year between events.” 


Paddon says he has a new mental approach this year thanks to the work he has being doing with coach Gilbert Enoka. 


“It’s important to stay focused on the step-by-step goals. Of course we want to fight at the front and will do this as often as we can – that’s the target every time we get in the car. But to be in a position to fight for the championship in the future, we have to put all the building blocks and information together now.

 

“Overall, we will use Mexico and Argentina to continue to fine-tune the new car, so that once we get back to Europe we can hit the ground running on events that we enjoy and suit us.” 


With 399 competitive kilometres over 21 stages, Rally Mexico crosses the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountain ranges. Based in the country’s fifth largest city of León, 400km north-west of Mexico City, the rally starts on Thursday night with the exciting Guanajuato ceremonial start that sees huge crowds and festivities at the UNESCO World Heritage Site as drivers tackle the city’s former mining tunnels. Friday’s route includes two repeated runs of two gravel stages plus the León street stage and two runs of the super special stage. Drivers head back to León for Saturday’s six gravel stages, two more passes of the super special and the León night-time street stage. Sunday features just two stages – the monstrous 80km Guanajuato stretch and the final power stage. 


Paddon and Kennard will represent Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team in Mexico, while Hyundai Motorsport team-mates Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo drive under the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team banner. The team aims to make it three podiums in a row for the New Generation i20 WRC, having claimed multiple stage wins and consecutive podiums in the opening two rallies of the season.

Top Kiwi rally driver Hayden Paddon has made history with his co-driver John Kennard by finishing in second place in Rally Sweden on Sunday (European time).  


Paddon is the first non-European driver to finish on the podium on the snow rally which is traditionally dominated by Scandinavian drivers and is now one of only seven non-Scandinavian drivers to have secured second place finishes on this World Rally Championship event. 


After a steady Friday morning in their debut event in the New Generation Hyundai i20 WRC car, the New Zealanders leapt into podium contention with two more outright WRC stage wins during Friday afternoon’s stages (bring their WRC stage win tally to ten). The Kiwis were second behind rally leader and three-time world rally champion Sébastien Ogier, but just 15 seconds separated Paddon in second and Andreas Mikkelsen in sixth, setting up a closely-fought five-way battle as snow fell and roads froze overnight to create the more familiar icy conditions of the Swedish rally. 


Paddon and Kennard delivered a strong performance on Saturday morning, with consistent top three stage times and a stunning run on stage 12 to slash the gap to Ogier to just 8.8 sec. More importantly, edging closer to Ogier meant a bigger buffer to the hard-chasing Mads Ostberg in third. The Kiwis finished Saturday comfortably holding second, their margin to leader Ogier 17.1 sec and their lead over Ostberg 25.2 sec. 


With the event using a shortened route due to earlier warmer weather conditions reducing the usual ice and snow for which the compulsory studded tyres are made, there was just one special stage to run on Sunday. Paddon and Kennard successfully completed the final stage with a steady sixth fastest time and just needed to return to check-in at the service park in Karlstead. However, having crossed the stage finish line with a water leak from the radiator after hitting a wooden post during the stage, they had a quick repair to complete before carefully nursing the car back to officially finish the rally. 


Paddon said: “We’re really happy to finish second. It’s much more than we expected at this rally so to bring it home safely is a big relief. We had a small scare on the last stage which kept it interesting right to the end! 


“That late drama aside, we have had a good weekend and I have felt very comfortable in the New Generation i20 WRC. We made the most of our road position when we had to, and refused to get drawn into a fight for the lead. 


“It’s a great result for the team. Obviously scoring manufacturers’ points this weekend is very important. 


“All in all, very good. We’re really looking forward to the rest of the year now. we know there’s a lot more to come from myself and the car, especially once we spend a bit more time developing some setups and once we get back onto gravel. It’s a good confidence boost and now we’re looking forward to Mexico.” 


The history-making result moves Paddon into fourth equal on the WRC drivers’ championship points-table – his highest-ever championship position to date – and also marks the second consecutive podium finish for the New Generation Hyundai i20 WRC car to score 18 important manufacturer points for the team, who are now just five points off leaders Volkswagen Motorsport. 


Of Paddon’s Hyundai Motorsport team-mates, Dani Sordo held on to finish sixth and Thierry Neuville recovered from mechanical issues on Friday to record a 14th place finish. 


Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “It’s been an eventful week in Sweden so to come away with a podium result is fantastic. Congratulations to Hayden and John - and to everyone in the team for a job well done. We had a few nervous moments at the end of the Power Stage when Hayden experienced a water leak from the radiator, but thankfully some quick thinking allowed him to make it back safely. Dani had a decent run this weekend, too, and without the puncture on Saturday morning, he would have been in the fight for the top-three. Thierry’s rally was also affected by some technical trouble but he had a strong finish, only just missing out on a Power Stage point. Thanks to the drivers’ determination, we have been able to learn more about the New Generation i20 WRC this weekend and pick up some important Championship points. We are five points behind Volkswagen after two events, we’ve scored consecutive podiums and we’ve shown encouraging pace. Mexico will be another learning experience with the new car but we can be pleased with our start to 2016.”

Rally driver Hayden Paddon and his co-driver John Kennard are as prepared as they can be to tackle the high speed snow and ice of Rally Sweden in their New Generation i20 World Rally Car (WRC).


 New Zealand’s most successful combination in world rallying heads to the second round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship, which runs 11-14 February, excited by the challenges ahead on what is one of the fastest rallies on the world circuit.


 Paddon says he’s looking forward to facing Sweden’s snow and ice. 


 “I really enjoy the fast nature of the stages in Sweden – they are some of the fastest in the whole championship,” says Paddon having secured his first-ever top five WRC finish on this event last year.


 “Having competed here in a world rally car for the first time here last year means we have more of an idea what to expect from the conditions, the speed of the stages, our pace notes and the car setup. The grip with the studded tyre – our only tyre option – is quite good, but this year it looks as though there may not be much snow which will be a new challenge for everyone. Also, with this being our first event in the New Generation i20 WRC, we do have a few things to adapt to, but we are definitely ready.”


 Assessing their performance gains with the experience of 12 WRC events behind them, Paddon says: “Twelve months on as a driver and co-driver pairing, John and I have made considerable gains in terms of performance and skills to add to our physical seat-time on-event. 


 “We have a lot of pace notes from last year, so that is a big help with our preparation. We have further fine-tuned our note system to try and find a few more tenths of speed.”


 Co-driver John Kennard adds: “Sweden is a very fast event, so things happen even quicker in terms of relaying our note. And because everything outside is a bit monochromatic, you can lose some of your visual references. It’s even more important to have the awareness of where in the notes, I’m at as I’m conveying them to Hayden.”


 Paddon aims to be fighting at the front in Sweden and all subsequent WRC events this year. “I have my own performance goals for each rally, so we’ll be continuing on from where we left off last year and the core focus is on the preparation, process and personal development towards the end goal.”


 During rally week, Paddon and Kennard have a day of testing in the new Hyundai on Sunday before undertaking the controlled speed pre-event reconnaissance runs through the entire rally route on Tuesday and Wednesday.


 “We had a two-day test in the new car in December and one more day this week to confirm settings. We still have a lot of work to do with suspension so this will be the focus.”


 Paddon’s Hyundai Motorsport team-mates Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo debuted the New Generation Hyundai i20 WRC in Monte-Carlo and delighted the team with their respective third and sixth places on the iconic rally.


 “The new car is still in its early stages,” Paddon says. “The car is certainly a step forward, however we are starting from scratch with setups and information on the car. Last year Dani, Thierry and I all worked close together with the team on the car’s development – more information and feedback equals faster development. But the base car is now done, so we are working with our engineers to personalise our own setups for our different driving styles for the events ahead.


 “While we want to come out of the blocks running, we also need to be smart and learn as much about the car as possible over the next few events so we can fight at the front in the future.”


 Based in Karlstad, to the west of Stockholm, the rally gets underway with an opening ceremony and super special stage at the Karlstad trotting track on Thursday evening. Friday’s opening leg takes competitors north-west into Norway with a tyre-change opportunity in Kirkenær – neither Friday’s or Saturday’s itinerary includes a mid-leg service, something Paddon says is not a major issue. “Sweden generally not too hard on the car, and the rally has always been a bit of a sprint event. It has to be flat out from the start.”


 Saturday’s route comprises classic stages in the frozen forests around Hagfors north of Karlstad and include the famous Colin’s Crest in Vargåsen. Sunday’s final four stages are in the same area before the Karlstad finish. The rally route comprises 332.13 competitive kilometres, approximately 25 per cent of which is new, as well as a whopping 1,592.74 km of touring stages.

Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard have completed Rallye Monte-Carlo in a positive frame of mind, having done all they could to gain experience of the iconic rally’s notoriously tricky stages.


 The Kiwis successfully completed Sunday’s final three special stages of the opening round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship with two encouraging stage times – sixth quickest and fifth quickest – to finish 25th overall, a steady result given Paddon and Kennard had fallen to an unfamiliar 76th place after being forced to retire on Friday morning.


 “A very trying weekend, but also a positive, character-building weekend for me,” Paddon said on Sunday afternoon (European time) after overcoming one last challenge in the form of a broken driveshaft on the final stage to make it to the finish.


 “Some of the stages were harder than others, but I have thoroughly enjoyed tackling Monte’s iconic stages and we were able to have some fun along the way. Of course coming here, we expected this to be our toughest rally for the year and it’s certainly lived up to that expectation.


 “At the same time, there are a lot of positives to take away from the weekend. We learnt a lot about the surfaces, the conditions, the tyre choices – all these things you really need experience of on this sort of rally to be successful here. We’ll take that knowledge forward for when we come back in 12 months’ time.”


 The pair started strongly on Thursday with their times on the two night stages – seventh and fourth quickest respectively – earning them fifth overall on the leader-board overnight. The icy mountain roads bit back on Friday morning meaning the Kiwis had to retire and miss the chance of experiencing the full day’s itinerary.


 Of Friday’s low speed incident, Paddon said: “The morning didn’t go at all how we planned. We just got caught out by a patch of ice that pitched the rear of the car into a tree, pulling off the rear-left wheel. There was no way we could continue so we had little choice but to retire. We knew it would be a rally of learning but we weren’t expecting our first full day to be over so soon. That’s the nature of this rally, I guess.”


 Re-joining on Saturday morning under Rally 2 regulations, Paddon and Kennard enjoyed a series of positives including seventh fastest, fifth fastest and even a second fastest stage time.


 Of Saturday’s five special stages, Paddon said: “This morning we were determined to start fresh and put yesterday behind us, but it was an equally tough start. Obviously we’re here to learn as much as we can and take as much as we can from the experience. The first stage (SS9) was difficult with all the patchy ice, a lot more than we expected. Then SS10 in the snow, we spent more time going backwards than actually going forwards. I don’t think I’ve ever spun so many times in one stage, but that’s part of our learning process. We’ve had a couple of top five times and one stage when we were second fastest – it was nice to be part of the team’s first 1-2-3 in stage in SS12 and I had a lot of fun both in that stage and SS13.”


 Meanwhile Paddon’s Hyundai Motorsport team-mates made a strong start to the 2016 WRC season with the new generation Hyundai i20 WRC car. Thierry Neuville overcame numerous challenges to secure third place and deliver a podium finish on debut with the new car, while Dani Sordo worked with the team’s engineers to improve the car throughout the rally, moving into sixth place on the final day. The double top-six finish sees Hyundai Motorsport jointly lead the WRC manufacturers’ championship with Volkswagen Motorsport on 25 points apiece.


 Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We are all delighted to see the new generation i20 WRC finish on the podium here in Monte-Carlo. It’s an important result for the entire team and it is the culmination of a lot of work from our colleagues in Alzenau. Thierry has had a competitive and consistent weekend, and it’s really fantastic to see him back where he belongs – on the podium. Dani made big improvements over the weekend and he had a positive morning, including scoring power stage points. Hayden did everything that was expected from him – and he can now tick Monte-Carlo off his list with valuable experience gained. We can’t rest on our laurels because there is much still to do. We will run three new generation cars in Sweden and we are determined to continue improving. For now, though, we’ll savour a hard-fought and well-earned podium.”


 Looking ahead to his next event, the 11-14 February running of Rally Sweden where he will also have the new generation Hyundai i20 WRC car which his team-mates debuted in Monte-Carlo, Paddon said: “Now it’s time to press the reset button. Our season starts with Rally Sweden and obviously with the new car we’re very excited. We have high hopes for the rest of the year going on to events that we know and we enjoy.


 “It was also great to see the new car on the podium on its debut with the team. It’s a great result for all the hard work that’s gone into it by so many people. So a lot of positives to look forward to and bring on Rally Sweden.”

New Zealand’s top rally driver Hayden Paddon always knew that Rallye Monte-Carlo wasn’t going to be easy to learn, and so it’s proved during the Kiwi’s debut at the iconic rally which opens the World Rally Championship season.


On Thursday (European time), Paddon and co-driver John Kennard started strongly. Their times on the two night stages – seventh and fourth quickest respectively – saw the pair hold fifth overall on the leader-board overnight. The icy mountain roads bit back on Friday morning as Paddon’s Hyundai i20 WRC car slid on an ice patch and clipped a tree with the rear of the car, causing extensive damage to the left rear wheel. The Kiwis had to retire, meaning they missed the experience of Friday’s six-stage itinerary.


Of the low speed incident, Paddon said: “The morning didn’t go at all how we planned. We just got caught out by a patch of ice that pitched the rear of the car into a tree, pulling off the rear-left wheel. There was no way we could continue so we had little choice but to retire. We knew it would be a rally of learning but we weren’t expecting our first full day to be over so soon. That’s the nature of this rally, I guess.”


Re-joining on Saturday morning under Rally 2 regulations in an unfamiliar 76th place, Paddon and Kennard were able to enjoy a series of positives including seventh fastest, fifth fastest and even a second fastest stage time. While their overall place of 31st on the leader-board means they’re out of contention for any championship points, a great deal of constructive and confidence-boosting progress has been made.


Of Saturday’s five special stages which included two runs through the monster 51km Lardier Et Valenca - Faye test, Paddon said: “This morning we were determined to start fresh and put yesterday behind us, but it was an equally tough start. Obviously we’re here to learn as much as we can and take as much as we can from the experience.


“The first stage (SS9) was difficult with all the patchy ice, a lot more than we expected. Then SS10 in the snow, we spent more time going backwards than actually going forwards. I don’t think I’ve ever spun so many times in one stage, but that’s part of our learning process.


“It’s good to get through all the stages and get some necessary miles and experience of this rally. We’ve learnt a lot today with tyre decisions, car setup and road conditions.


“We’ve had a couple of top five times and one stage when we were second fastest – it was nice to be part of the team’s first 1-2-3 in stage in SS12 and I had a lot of fun both in that stage and SS13.


“So there’s still positives to take out of it, but all in all, it’s a pretty steep learning curve here for the first time and we’ll try and continue that (learning) again tomorrow on the last three stages.”


Paddon’s Hyundai Motorsport team-mates Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo – both in the new generation Hyundai i20 WRC car – have put the team into a provisional podium position at the end of the penultimate day. Neuville secured the first-ever stage wins for the new Hyundai rally cars as he and Sordo – with Paddon’s help – dominated the day’s final stages with 1-2-3 in SS12 and 1-2 in SS13. Neuville ended the day third overall with Sordo inside the top-eight.


Rallye Monte-Carlo concludes on Sunday with three stages where drivers will tackle the legendary Col de Turini and look to end the first rally of 2016 in style in Monaco.

Kiwi motorsport star Hayden Paddon, New Zealand’s most successful rally driver, is backed all the way by New Zealand-owned businesses as he prepares for his biggest season of international rally competition.


Paddon, originally from Geraldine, and his long-time co-driver John Kennard, from Blenheim, return to the FIA World Rally Championship with Hyundai Motorsport for a full 14-rally season in 2016, having confirmed a three-year contract with the team toward the end of the 2015 season. 


The New Zealand management company which oversees Paddon and Kennard’s world rallying exploits, Hayden Paddon RallySport Global (HPRG) Ltd, has confirmed partnerships with Hyundai New Zealand and Pak’nSave, as well as increased support from Z Energy and the support of associate sponsors Scott Sports and All About Signs in Timaru. 


The commercial partnerships with New Zealand-owned businesses emphasise the strong connections Paddon maintains with New Zealand, and are a vital and valued contribution to his 2016 world rally campaign where he aims to build on the many successes of last year including a career-best second place result in Sardinia.


Hyundai New Zealand and their nationwide dealer network have backed Paddon since 2014. 


“This is our third year working together with Hyundai New Zealand and their nationwide dealer network,” says Paddon. “They form a huge part of our WRC campaign as John and I continue to strive towards our ultimate goal of being world champions.”


Consistently among the top three new vehicle sales in New Zealand, Hyundai New Zealand – a 100 per cent Kiwi- owned company – has a vision and motivation which is matched by Paddon and Kennard’s ambition to be the best.


Paddon says: “To represent one of the fastest growing car manufacturers in the world, and a brand I am very passionate about is an honour. Working with Hyundai New Zealand is hugely enjoyable – we’re always keen to encourage more Kiwis to buy a Hyundai! We also have some other exciting New Zealand-based projects with Hyundai New Zealand on the horizon and look forward to sharing more about these soon.”


Now in their fourth year as key partners with HPRG, Pak’nSave has been pivotal in helping Paddon and the team reach their current position with a full-time contract in the World Rally Championship.


“Our partnership with Pak’nSave continues to grow,” Paddon says. “It’s great to continue with Pak’nSave which has formed an important part of our team over recent years. It’s a great example of Kiwis helping Kiwis!”


Also in their fourth year together and now with increased involvement, Z Energy will continue to help fuel Paddon’s drive and aspirations to be the world rally champion. The partnership between Z Energy and HPRG promises to deliver some exciting projects in the future.


Paddon says: “Z Energy, along with our other partners, are among New Zealand’s most trusted and thriving brands. The values and ambitions of Z to be the best aligns with our dreams, and it’s an honour to be involved with a company that is dedicated to Kiwis and providing the best service.”


Both Hyundai New Zealand and Z Energy have signed three year agreements with HPRG.


Timaru-based HPRG director Peter Swaney says: “We have always had great support from corporates and shareholders involved in HPRG and it’s fantastic to see this support continue – and increase – as we commence the 2016 season. I think it’s a real testament to the brand that we have built around Hayden over a long period of time to have three of New Zealand’s biggest and customer-focused companies partnering us.”


The team at HPRG is also in the final planning stages of an exciting scheme to be rolled out throughout the year to aid rally competitors and clubs in New Zealand.


Paddon says: “I still have a long way to go to reach my goals, and at the same time I’m very passionate about our sport. To see more people competing in rallying and more Kiwis competing overseas is my ideal. I have been very fortunate to have a lot of support over the years from hundreds of people, so I want to return the favour. Details will become clearer soon but we are excited about this project.”


Following a short break in New Zealand, Paddon has now returned to Europe. He will soon be joined by Kennard to head to the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship’s opening round in Monte Carlo where the New Zealanders will make history as the first Kiwi pairing to contest the famous and notoriously challenging tarmac rally.