Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard will head to Europe a little earlier than planned following their decision to contest the Ypres Rally in Belgium at the end of June.
The pair will pilot a Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta S2000 run by the team with Symtech Racing, which took Paddon and Kennard to the 2011 FIA Production World Rally Championship. The Kiwis will then return to BRR and Skoda for August's two World Rally Championship events in Finland and Germany.
“Ypres is one of the biggest events on the European Rally Championship calendar, [and] the tarmac roads there will provide a real challenge as they are unlike anything we have driven on,” Paddon commented, “Likewise, driving the Fiesta for the first time will take a little adapting to, but this is all part of the process of developing myself as a driver, experiencing new events and challenging myself in different vehicles.
“It is also great to be competing in the ERC, the sister championship to the WRC and a championship which is dominated by Super 2000 cars, including factory teams, [which] puts us in direct competition with a lot of Super 2000 drivers.”
As a Belgian team, Symtech's local experience and expertise should help the Kiwis extract the most from their own performance and the event.
“I'm looking forward to working with both Symtech and Pirelli again,” Paddon added, “Pirelli has been pivotal in my career, having won the Pirelli Star Driver Scholarship back in 2010 which gave us the opportunity to get onto the WRC stage. We are sure their tyres will give us a good chance to be competitive.”
Based in the north-west of Belgium, the 59-year old Ypres Rally uses asphalt roads around the historic market town, with narrow stages through farmland featuring drainage ditches, telegraph poles and tight junctions, making taking shortcuts is a very risky choice.
“It's a challenging tarmac event where the locals are renowned for being very fast,” Paddon continued, “From the footage I have seen, it looks like an enjoyable, very fast tarmac rally.
“We're going into the unknown on this event, which is thought of as a specialist's event. We have no experience of it, so it's going to be quite a battle, but it's always good to challenge yourself. Within the ERC, we will be fighting for overall rally honours along with many other Super 2000 cars, [but] John and I have a good system with writing notes on new events, so we are backing ourselves to be challenging the leading teams.”
As a result of their decision to head to Belgium, Paddon and Kennard will now not contest either the Daybreaker Rally or their local Canterbury Rally in August.