SWRC championship leader Haydon Paddon will run with a new team on Rally Finland next week, it has been announced.
The Kiwi star has competed in an ASM Motorsport-run Skoda Fabia S2000 to date this year, most recently winning the SWRC class on his home event in New Zealand back in June. However, for the remainder of the season, he will now use one run by Baumschlager Rallye & Racing. BRR has run the factory-supported Skoda Fabia S2000 rally cars in the WRC for the past three seasons and, last year, the team ran the Skoda with which Finnish star Juho Hanninen won the SWRC title.
“Upon a mutual agreement between ASM Motorsport and Hayden Paddon Rallysport Global Ltd, the remainder of our 2012 SWRC campaign will now be run by Austrian team, Baumschlager Rallye & Racing (BRR),” Paddon confirmed. “We want to thank everyone at ASM Motorsport for working alongside us and helping us to achieve in our current position leading the Super 2000 World Rally Championship.”
“So, we'll be in a different Fabia for Finland,” Paddon added. “BRR have three cars that they are alternating, so our car is ready in their workshop. We will be doing a small test this Sunday and we will be trying some quite different car set-ups which will be a good learning curve.”
Rally Finland has attracted nine SWRC competitors and there will be 17 drivers in total in Super 2000 or Group N R4 cars, the category that Paddon's contests, including the Volkswagen Motorsport drivers of Sebastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen returning in similar Skoda Fabia S2000 cars for this event. Paddon currently has 62 SWRC points, giving him a margin of 19 points over equal second placeholders Craig Breen and Per-Gunnar Andersson.
“I'm really looking forward to the intensity of competition we're facing in Finland. During the past two events, we've had to look after our overall championship position, but for this rally there are a lot of fast drivers and we will have to push the whole way, something I'm really looking forward to. There is nothing like being in the heat of a battle.”
With his closest SWRC rivals, Breen and Andersson, and the expanded SWRC field competing in Finland, Paddon is relishing the challenge ahead with Wales Rally GB, Rally France and Rally Spain still to come as he strives to win his second world rally title in two years.
“It is now a straight-out fight until the end of the year with all drivers, and the competition in SWRC is particularly strong with nine registered drivers plus the Volkswagen team of Ogier and Mikkelsen,” continued the 25-year-old.
“Okay, the results to date this year have been good, and we are in a very good championship position. However we have not been able to yet show the speed that we want to. This is something we will be working very hard on for the remaining of the season as this is just as much, if not more important, than winning the championship.
“We have contested all these four remaining events before which will be a big help. But we're still learning how to get the best out of the Skoda S2000 car, and the final two rounds on tarmac will be our first time on tarmac in a S2000 car, so no doubt that will create some new challenges.
“John [Kennard – my co-driver] and I have plenty of work ahead as we work with the BRR team for what is sure to be four very exciting months ahead,” Paddon summed-up.