Paddon ready for hot and dusty WRC Rally Australia
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The Thursday morning official shakedown runs at WRC Rally Australia are among the most important of the year according to New Zealand rally star Hayden Paddon.
Speaking to more than 100 of his supporters at a pre-rally function in Coffs Harbour last night, Paddon explained that because pre-event testing isn’t permitted before the `long haul’ events of the championship (those outside of Europe) it means more focus goes onto the 4.9km warm-up stage.
``We‘ll do three runs with different damper and diff settings then return to the service park to make more changes. Then we’ll probably do another three runs,’’ said Paddon.
``That means we can try six variations of set-up and also get some idea of the changing road conditions we’ll see during the rally.
``We’ll start with the settings from the Spanish gravel stages and fine tune from them.
``It’s not just about the times you do in the shakedown. A lot of it is about the feeling you have with the car.’’
Paddon says the ``open book’’ policy in the Hyundai Motorsport team means he, team-mates Thierry Neuville (Belgium) and Dani Sordo (Spain) and their respective engineers can compare data.
Paddon and co-driver John Kennard completed the two days of reconnaissance for the 23-stage season finale on Wednesday afternoon.
``We had two good days of recce. It’s warmer this year (in 2015 the Australian event was staged in September) and there’s a lot of gravel on the roads. There will be a fair amount of dust.
``The stages in the more open areas are nice and flowing like in New Zealand but there are some forest sections that are gnarly and rough.’’
Paddon said he has a three step strategy for the rally.
``On the first day (Friday) most of the stages are quite short so it will be very close. So I think day one is about setting up in a good position, day two is the moving day and hopefully day three is consolidation.’’
The 50.80km Nambucca stage used twice on Saturday and representing almost one-third of the total competitive driving this weekend could be the decider.
``It’s the signature stage of the rally and my favourite stage. I think we will be looking after the tyres as the temperatures look like being 5-6degC higher than last year and the actual road temperatures will be higher than that.’’
Paddon’s other focus in Australia is the short super special stages – an area he admits has been a weakness. There are two such stages this year – a 1.27km waterfront stage used four times and 1.37km stage at the rallycross track which runs twice.
``The key is not to lose too much time,’’ Paddon said.
The shakedown stage is new this year, moving north of the city into the same forest area where the Wedding Bells Power Stage will run on Sunday. It’s available to the WRC competitors during an 8am till 11.30am window (10am till 1.30pm NZ time).
Thursday’s other scheduled event is the rally show and ceremonial start in downtown Coffs Harbour before the high-speed rally action begins on Friday morning.