Hayden Paddon starts his sixth World Rally Championship event of year in Poland this week, looking forward to the fast roads and focused on his game plan of a top five finish.
“At the start of the year we set our target for this event to finish in the top five and that remains the same,” said Paddon.
“Yes, our good result in Sardinia gives us more confidence and people maybe expect more from us now, but we won’t get carried away. For John [Kennard, Paddon’s co-driver] and me, our plan and approach remains the same, taking each event as it comes.”
Almost 90 per cent of Rally Poland’s route has changed from last year, but the event, which starts today, continues to feature the fast, sandy roads for which it’s known – Paddon describes it as a “sprint rally”.
The event takes place in the Masurian lake district north of Warsaw and includes a ceremonial start and a super special stage tonight New Zealand-time, a long leg of around 150 competitive kilometres on Friday with no opportunity for competitors to have their cars serviced until after all eight stages are complete, Saturday’s three stages that are driven twice, and just two stages on Sunday.
Tyre selection will once again be a key factor in performance with soft compounds expected to be the primary choice.
Of the lack of Friday midday service, Paddon says: “Generally the stages are not too hard on the car or tyres. This is more of a sprint rally so despite no service on Friday, it is flat-out from the first stage. Our Poland test last month was in very soft, sandy conditions. We can also use data from our Finland test last week on harder roads, which gives us good info for the rally. We have made some small setup changes but nothing dramatic. In general these stages suit me better.”
Their debut WRC podium finish at Rally Italy Sardinia in June moved Paddon and Kennard into ninth place on the WRC drivers’ and co-drivers’ championship tables respectively. With the running order for Friday and Saturday’s stages based on championship position, the Kiwis will start ninth on the road on Friday.
“Road sweeping is not such an issue here as the sandy roads mean as more cars pass, the surface gets softer and slower. For sure, this time we don't have an advantage but we are not complaining. That’s the beauty of this year’s starting order policy – sometimes it works for you, sometimes not.
“We really enjoy events that have a majority of new stages or layouts. It makes it more of a challenge for everyone and makes things more interesting for the sport. Our pace note system is detailed, but works well to attack roads on the first pass.”
Paddon and Kennard, from Geraldine and Blenheim respectively, are one of 14 WRC crews entered for Rally Poland, and for the first time this season, they’ll be one of four Hyundai Motorsport crews. In Hyundai Shell World Rally Team colours are Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul in the #7 Hyundai i20 WRC car and Dani Sordo and Marc Martí in the #8 car. Joining Paddon and Kennard in the Hyundai Mobis Rally Team are Kevin Abbring and Sebastian Marshall who are competing in the first of four events in the #10 Hyundai i20 WRC.
In what has been a strong season to date, the hard-working Kiwi continues to push himself with each outing in the Hyundai i20 WRC.
“Later in the year I think we can aim higher with the extra confidence we are building with the car and events. But for now Sardinia is only one event and the upcoming events in Poland, Finland and Germany are quite contrasting. The fast gravel events in Poland and Finland suit us a lot better but they also suit others too – and the competition in the top ten is very close.”
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “Rally Poland will be another important milestone for Hyundai Motorsport as we enter four cars into a WRC event for the first time. It will be a new challenge for our team as we tackle an already tricky rally with an extra car, but it’s something to which we are looking forward. We had a fantastic result in Sardinia with two cars on the podium after great performances from all drivers over the weekend, and especially from Hayden.
We are pleased to welcome Kevin into the team for a four-rally programme starting from Poland, where he took a JWRC victory some years ago. Our drivers generally perform well on unknown terrain so the fact that around 90% of Rally Poland is new compared to last year will hopefully play into our hands. It would be great to repeat the podium from last year and continue our performance from Sardinia.”
Paddon and the HPRG team appreciates the support of their partners, Hyundai New Zealand, PlaceMakers and Pak n’ Save, along with associate support from Z Energy, Scott Sports, New Balance New Zealand and All About Signs Timaru.
Hayden Paddon’s 2015 WRC schedule with Hyundai Motorsport