7 September 2015
WRC Rally Australia: Paddon wants to push for podium
Hayden Paddon: We want to push for the podium. At this level that's not easy, but we will be giving it our best shot.
Hyundai's Hayden Paddon is aiming for a top-three finish on Rally Australia this week.
Paddon has been promoted to the #8 car for the tenth round in the 2015 World Rally Championship as the team strives to consolidate its second place in the WRC manufacturers' championship.
Paddon's recent experience of this unique event in the forests and shire roads of Coffs Harbour on the coast of New South Wales and his strong run of form on gravel this season led the team to make the decision to run Paddon alongside Thierry Neuville to offer the highest probability of good points. It means Dani Sordo will run in Paddon's usual Hyundai Motorsport N #20 car.
“Regardless of which car I'm driving, I have targeted this event all year as one of our strongest events, particularly if it stays dry and we have a road position advantage,” Paddon said during a brief visit home to New Zealand from Europe before heading to Australia. “We want to push for the podium. At this level that's not easy, but we will be giving it our best shot.”
With the running order determined by championship position for the first two days of the rally, Paddon will start 10th on the road.
Paddon has competed in the Coffs Harbour WRC event three times previously, securing a career-best sixth place last year with Hyundai.
Paddon says the change of car isn't of consequence from a technical perspective: “Absolutely nothing changes other than the car number on the door. The spec of the car, set-up, personnel, etc. are the same as if we were driving #20.
“Of course, there is a little added pressure to score points for the [main Hyundai] team, but it's very pleasing that the team has faith in me to challenge for points that can help the team in the manufacturers' championship standings.”
Rally Australia offers one of the most compact routes of the 2015 WRC season with the majority of the 311.36km of competitive special stages handily positioned around the Coffs Harbour rally base. There are just over 1,000km of competitive and touring stages combined. The event uses a mix of hard base roads, some tight and twisty and others fast and flowing, often lined by trees close to the edge or negotiating dense rainforest.
“The route features some new stages this year which are more public road stages. These will suit us well and, with the bulk of the mileage of the event is similar to previous years', we're looking forward to it. Saturday's 50km Nambucca stage will be a key decider, but it's also one of my favourite stages; quite fast and flowing with a few changes of rhythm,” Paddon added.
“The anticipated changeable spring weather and shorter stages means tyre strategy will be key, but we have planned well for this.”
Like all WRC competitors, Paddon has the option of hard compound Michelin tyres or softs in case of rain.
“We are not anticipating too much rain for the rally, however a little humidity can help grip. If it's really wet, the stages can be extremely slippery. Having said that, none of my WRC competitors or I have competed in Coffs when it's extremely wet so that would be a new and levelling experience for all of us.”
Route changes also see the previous city-based super special stage dropped so Saturday's leg concludes with a run in darkness. This change appeals to Paddon who enjoys night stages more than short, sharp super special stages.
Meanwhile, Paddon's co-driver John Kennard says he's really looking forward to what is the closest to a home event for the only New Zealanders competing in the WRC.
“It's the nearest thing we have to home nowadays, with some enjoyable public road stages. From my side of the car, it's also a logistically simpler event than some.
“In fact, it's the complete reverse of somewhere like Germany, which is quite unrelenting, even on recce and road sections.”
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