Paddon improves to 13th in WRC Wales Rally GB, first S2000 competitor
New Zealand’s world champion rally driver Hayden Paddon has overcome the challenges of typically muddy Welsh roads and a brand-new rally car to finish the second day of Wales Rally GB in 13th overall.
Paddon finishes Friday’s eight stages the best-placed competitor in the Super 2000 class which, although is not an official category in Wales, has attracted a number of drivers.
Paddon, from Geraldine, and co-driver John Kennard, from Blenheim, are driving a brand-new Subaru R4 rally car in the final round of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship. As they have already won the Production World Rally Championship title, the Kiwis are driving the new category R4 Subaru to test themselves among the Super 2000 category drivers at this event. Paddon does not earn PWRC points in Wales as he’s not entered in that class.
Thursday evening’s opening three stages presented some challenges – a failed intercom and a high speed incident followed by a puncture – for the Kiwis, who finished the day second among the S2000 competitors and 19th overall.
On Friday’s 116km of primarily forestry roads, Paddon didn’t have an encouraging start, describing the car as “very stiff and missing a lot of grip”. Despite the handling issues, his stage times placed him in varying positions on the leader-board during the morning – on the four morning stages he was 23rd quickest, 17th, 20th, and then 13th quickest behind American star Ken Block in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC car.
At the midday service, Paddon said: “The trouble is it’s a new car and we haven’t had a chance to develop it. When the roads clean, it’s hard to drive around; when it’s muddy, it’s actually a lot easier! We’re trying to soften it off with the roll bars. The conditions are changing all the time; the last one is really muddy.”
Clearly the Symtech Racing team engineers made changes to Paddon’s liking as he steadily improved his overall position – from 16th at lunchtime to 15th, and then 13th by the end of the afternoon’s fourth stage. Rain and then fog presented additional challenges for competitors throughout the day. He said: “Roads are getting a bit rough for what is basically a production car. The car is improved over this morning because of the changes we made. There is more grip than we had this morning which says it all.”
Paddon and Kennard tackle six stages on Saturday (UK time) and six further stages on Sunday to wrap up their 2011 season.