20 October 2014
WRC: Paddon keeps focus for Spain
Hyundai's Hayden Paddon is hoping to make experience tell as he lines up for his fourth appearance on the WRC's unique Rally de Espana.
Sporting an attitude of 'keep your head down, keep on working and learning', Kiwi rally star Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard will again look to make the most of the chance to be part of the three-strong Hyundai Motorsport line-up on Rally Spain.
The late-October RallyRACC-Rally de Espana will be Paddon and Kennard's fourth appearance on the event, a fact that provides a welcome level of experience to balance against the fact it's the New Zealanders' first tarmac event in the Hyundai i20 WRC.
However, Rally de Espana is also the season's only mixed surface event, with Friday's opening leg predominantly gravel and the second and third legs entirely asphalt, adding a twist to Paddon's tale.
“Spain is a rally I really enjoy and the tarmac stages are the closest that you will get to a race track – fast, wide and smooth,” he said after testing the Hyundai car on tarmac alongside team-mates Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo last week.
“It's a pleasure to drive a WRC car on these roads, and we were lucky to have debuted in a WRC car here last year, so that experience will help us a lot as John and I have good pace notes that we have worked on over the last couple of weeks.
“Also, having the gravel stages on day one this year will make the transition easier – it's easier to go from gravel to tarmac in terms of your driving compared to vice versa.”
With four strong finishes in the four events he's contested under the Hyundai Motorsport N banner this year, Paddon is maintaining his focus on achieving a credible result in Spain.
“This will be our first tarmac rally with the Hyundai i20 WRC, so we are a little behind Thierry and Dani, who have both recently done two tarmac events in Germany [where they took an historic 1-2 finish for Hyundai] and France and are both regarded as tarmac specialists.
“I really enjoy this rally and while we have always set good stage times here – and finished eighth here last year on our WRC debut – earlier attempts didn't always deliver good results. We would like to challenge to be in the top seven, while keeping in mind that, with 16 WRC entrants, the competition here is huge. There's no doubt our two team-mates are perfect benchmarks against which to judge our performance.”
Another factor for Paddon and Kennard to take into account are the new spec Michelin asphalt tyres that other WRC regulars used for the first time in France earlier in October. Michelin upgraded its Pilot Sport rubber in both soft and hard compounds to add to the wet weather version that became available in August.
“The biggest change with the car is the new Michelin tarmac tyres which have been designed to work in the wet and dry,” Paddon explained, “During our recent one-day test, the performance of the tyre impressed me, but it is certainly moving around more which means we are sliding more, so we have had to make some chassis adjustments, but we now have a good feeling for the car and new tyres on tarmac.”
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