Hayden Paddon set to kick off rallycross career in France this weekend
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Hayden Paddon’s motorsport career takes a new turn this weekend when the new TitansRX Europe rallycross series kicks off in France.
The opening round of the new FIA-affiliated series is at the Circuit d’Essay, about two hours west of Paris.
A grid of 12 drivers — competing in identical PanteraRX6 cars — includes Swedish rallycross stars Kevin and Timmy Hansen and former F1 driver Nelson Piquet Jr. Paddon will also be up against former WRC rival, Craig Breen from Ireland.
It will be Paddon’s debut in rallycross and the first time he’s raced side-by-side with other drivers in his life — an entirely new experience that he’s looking forward to.
‘‘It’s a very competitive field so it will be tough, but I think my naturally competitive nature will take over to try and be near the front,’’ says Paddon.
‘‘I’m hoping it’s something I can learn and pick up on quickly in the intensity of competition. But essentially, I’m going in with zero expectations and just see how it pans out – of course I will be driving as hard and fast as I can.’’
Paddon says, unusually, he’s been doing nothing special to prepare for his rallycross debut.
‘‘I’ve been focusing on our New Zealand events and Paddon Rallysport business in recent weeks which have been very busy. I never stop my own personal training to keep developing and evolving as the best driver I can be, but nothing specific for rallycross. I’m sure, after this weekend, I will know a lot more about this exciting form of motorsport.’’
Paddon joined other drivers at a test at Fuglau in Austria in early May.
‘‘The car was a lot of fun to drive and also surprisingly easy. With 550bhp at the foot and quite a light car, it’s agile and predictable. It will be interesting racing five other cars at the same time in the short rallycross races.’’
Paddon’s PanteraRX6 car will sport a Hyundai body kit, in keeping with Paddon’s own links to the Korean brand.
A double-header format at each weekend features two race days, with a race winner crowned at the end of each day, and drivers earning points towards the series winner title after six events and 12 race days.
Each race day features three qualifying sessions, where the highest points are awarded for the final race position, as well as extra points for the fastest overall time. This encourages drivers to overtake if they want more points and reduces the influence of track and weather conditions.
As in classic rallycross, the top-12 drivers compete in the semi-finals and the top six face off in the final. Qualifying sessions have five laps, Semi-finals have six laps and Finals have seven laps. The joker lap now becomes a penalty lap, and screens on track will tell drivers if they need to take a penalty lap.
Paddon is scheduled to compete in all six TitansRX Europe rounds. The calendar runs through till the final in Germany over the October 19-20 weekend.
‘‘Initially I was invited to make a guest appearance in the series, but after our WRC discussions fell through last minute, I had more availability so asked if was possible to do more rounds,’’ said Paddon.
‘‘It’s going to be great to be competing in Europe again after our recent successes at home in New Zealand.’’
Paddon’s next events in New Zealand are expected to be the annual Ashley Forest Rallysprint near Rangiora on September 21-22 and the Waimate 50 Motorsport Festival (October 26-27) driving his Hyundai i20 AP4 car in a highly modified specification.
2019 TitansRX Europe calendar:
June 29-30 — Essay, France
July 27-28 — Lydden Hill, UK
August 10-11 — Montalegre, Portugal
September 7-8 — MJP Arena, Austria
October 5-6 — Nyirad, Hungary
October 19-20 — Estering, Germany