15 June 2015
WRC Rally Italia Sardegna: This won’t be a one-off – Paddon
Hayden Paddon: I'm a very competitive person and I think now maybe for Australia we can start tagging the win
Hyundai third Hayden Paddon says his sensational performance on Rally Italia Sardegna definitely won't be a “one-off”.
Paddon sprung a surprise in Sardinia last weekend by leading for 15 stages until he slipped back on Saturday afternoon after hitting trouble.
His drive attracted plaudits all-round and while he is determined to “keep his feet on the ground”, he is hopeful he can challenge at the front again before the season is out and reckons Rally Australia – his “home” event – could be one that is particularly good for him.
“For sure it's not a one-off,” said the New Zealander after coming home second to secure his maiden WRC podium, “but we have to be realistic and keep our feet on the ground. My goal for Poland [the next event] was to go for a top five and that stays the same.
“But for sure, I'm a very competitive person and I think now maybe for Australia we can start tagging the win. There are similar sort of road conditions and grip levels there to what we have here. The feeling in the car is good and, for sure, I still have a lot to improve. [But] we're going to keep our feet on the ground.”
Paddon got to use an upgraded Hyundai i20 WRC in Italy, with a steering wheel-mounted paddle shift gearbox that made its debut in the sister cars of Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo in Argentina and he felt it was definitely a help.
“Surprisingly, that's made a very big difference, but we didn't have much testing [with it] before the event,” he continued. “The first time I used the paddle was at shakedown and a couple of times in the super special on Thursday night I went for the lever.
“The paddle helps to use the engine a bit more. Looking at the data, I'd been a gear higher than Thierry and Dani and now I'm a gear down in some places. In a lot of corners with the paddles, I'm using the gears more and really feeling the torque – that's where the improvement is coming.
"We're not far behind [the lead Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRCs] now. We get an engine upgrade in Poland, but we're pretty close and then it's down to car set-up.”
Meanwhile, Paddon has reiterated just how happy he was with his weekend: “It's been amazing. Friday morning probably exceeded our expectation. At the end of the first stage I knew we had an advantage from where we were on the road, but the stage didn't seem to flow so well. I said to John [Kennard – my co-driver] that we had lost of a lot of time in there, but we had the fastest time. I relaxed a bit after that, everything was working and it felt quite easy in the car.
“Then I was a bit nervous in the afternoon [on Friday], not knowing how much advantage I would have. I think I probably got more satisfaction though out of being in the top three and setting times close to Seb [Ogier] and Jari-Matti [Latvala] then than the times in the morning – they gave me more confidence and I pushed on from there.
“Then on Saturday afternoon we had the same problem we had in Argentina [after hitting a rock] and we retired after 50 kilometres there. This time we still had 80 kilometres to go. But we strapped it all together and cruised through the last stage. I was very surprised [we made it]. I'm not one for showing a lot of happiness, but when things go wrong I am one for showing a lot of emotion and I was gutted [when I thought we would have to retire].
“But you know, I never thought, to be honest, about the result, it was just one stage at a time. We wanted to go out and do our own thing. I don't think we would have kept Seb behind in a straight fight, I think he had something in the tank, but I was a bit surprised when we were still there [in the rally lead] on Saturday lunchtime.
“[Overall] second place is much more than we expected from this rally – [and] I guess expectations will be a lot higher for the rest of the year!”
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