6 September 2014
WRC Rally Australia: Paddon out to make step forward
Hyundai's Hayden Paddon reckons Rally Australia could be his best chance all year of a good result
Hayden Paddon says he will be looking to take another “step forward” and try to “mix it with the front runners” on Rally Australia next week.
Paddon missed the event in Germany, but returns in the 'third' Hyundai i20 WRC for the trip 'Down Under'.
He has done Rally Australia twice before and claimed the Production WRC crown on the event back in 2011 – finishing first in class and sixth overall. To date this season he has done three events with the i20 WRC, finishing 12th in Sardinia and eighth more recently in Poland and Finland.
“Rally Australia is the event I have been looking forward to the most and is as close as we get to a home event,” said the New Zealander. “Despite the roads being quite different to what we have in New Zealand, we have achieved good success there in the past. It is also extra special for us as we have a lot of support from New Zealand flying over waving the Hyundai and Kiwi flags - so I hope we give them something to cheer for.
“We had a really good test in France recently and have adapted a new set-up from what we had at the previous events. The team are working hard to keep making strides ahead and coming off the result in Germany [when the squad finished 1-2], the vibe in the team is very good.
“We are looking forward to taking another step forward and trying to mix it with the front runners.”
Quizzed further on his goals for the event, he added: “We're always looking to build on the experience we've gained so far and build on the improvements in performance we've been showing from rally to rally. If we can take a step up from what we did at Rally Finland, that would be good. Also if we could get a top five finish, that would be really good, but I realise the size of the challenge to do that. We have to make sure we have a really good rally to achieve this.”
“One key will be to try and take advantage of our road position on the first day,” he added. “Seeing as that's based on championship order, we'll be a little bit further back. So that road clearing from the guys in front is something we should be able to make the most of.”
Meanwhile, he noted that he has been pleased with his progress this season: “I definitely feel like we're learning a lot this year with the team and the team's helping me develop on many levels as a driver, so that's great.
“I know where we can be going faster, but it's not something that you can do within a blink of an eye. It takes a little time to adapt and tune your mind into the fact you have to brake a little bit later and carry that little bit more extra corner speed to what I've been used to for many years. It's getting close, but it takes a little more time.
“For this event, we're feeling quietly confident. [As I said] we had a really good test with the Hyundai i20 WRC in France and have changed a few things in the setup to move the car more toward to my style of driving, rather than in the past we've been taking what Thierry [Neuville] and Juho [Hanninen] have been doing with their setup and trying to adapt my driving to that. Now we're looking at setup from the other way round. Combined with some good pace notes from previous events here, I think we have the best chance all year of a good result.”
“It's the first time in Australia for the team and there will be some unknowns,” he continued, “but with both Chris [Atkinson] and I, both being Australasian, there's some good experience that we can certainly help with.
“But the team's obviously on a high after winning in Germany so everyone's extremely motivated and will be competitive.”
Paddon will be in the #20 Hyundai i20 WRC in Australia, while Neuville and Atkinson are in the lead sister cars - #7 and #8 respectively.
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