Paddon confirms Subaru-supported R4 rally car for WRC final
New Zealand's leading rally driving duo, Hayden Paddon and John Kennard, continue pushing their own competitive boundaries with confirmation they will drive an R4-spec Subaru STI rally car in Wales Rally GB, the final round of their 2011 campaign.
Having secured the 2011 FIA Production World Rally Championship title with two rounds to spare, subject to final confirmation by the FIA, Paddon has been seeking further opportunities to demonstrate his abilities and confirm his plans for next year.
The opportunity to drive the lighter, faster Subaru R4 comes with the support of Subaru Technica International (STI), the motorsport arm of Japanese Subaru manufacturer Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.
The new R4 category was introduced this year by the FIA in a bid to allow two-litre turbocharged Group N cars to compete with existing Super 2000 machinery.
Paddon explains: "The Subaru R4 is the next step in development from the current Group N production car we've been driving. In a nutshell, they are 80kg lighter with some lighter body panels, fabricated sub-frames and suspension arms which give the car better geometry and handling. They also have more adjustable suspension with greater travel.
"The purpose of the R4 is to bridge the gap to the Super 2000 cars such as the Ford Fiesta S2000 and the Skoda Fabia S2000. It's still relatively early in the development of the R4 cars, but the aim is to have the Subaru Impreza STI-based R4 rally car as a serious contender to win the Super 2000 World Rally Championship title in 2012."
STI has been managing the Subaru Impreza R4 this year, which has seen the new car competing in selected rounds of the WRC and Intercontinental Rally Challenge with well-respected drivers such as former PWRC champion Toshi Arai and WRC driver PG Anderson.
The PWRC continues in 2012, but having won the championship title in his second year in this category, Paddon seeks to step up the World Rally Championship ladder. His involvement with the Subaru R4 project at Wales Rally GB aids this objective as they continue to look at options for 2012 and the future.
"This R4 project for Rally GB is supported by Subaru Japan and we'll be helping them develop the car for the future.
"The car and team will be run by our normal team, Symtech Racing from Belgium, who are also building the brand new car. We will have a full day's testing in the forest before the rally which starts on 10 November.
Paddon adds: "Driving an R4 car means John and I become 'priority two' or P2 drivers, starting amongst the Super 2000 competitors. We will have no pressure of having to try to secure championship points and we can focus more on developing the car and extracting as much speed as we can.
"The R4 drive also still fulfils our commitment as a PWRC-registered competitor where we must compete in all six of our nominated events. So even though we’ve stepped up a class, we’re still competing in the event but just not scoring any PWRC points.
"We have dual aims for the event - to gauge the performance of the R4 and ourselves against the existing Group N cars and the Super 2000 cars. I'll also be targeting a top ten finish.
Paddon continues: "Subaru - in New Zealand and globally with the Subaru Challenge Award - has been a great supporter of our campaign this year. We've had a great deal of assistance throughout the season and it's a privilege for me to now have the support of Subaru Japan and help them develop their new rally machine as the sport of rallying looks to turn another corner.
"Our test session in Wales will be very interesting, and despite the short timeframe in which to get everything confirmed, we have a good base set-up from our Group N car to work with our experienced team. The car will be more nimble, lighter and with up to 50mm extra suspension travel, we should be able to generate a lot more grip. With its better geometry, we should have a more balanced and faster car."
Dirk Van der Sluys, director of Symtech Racing, says: "This season has been the perfect year for us and both the Subaru and Hayden have done a faultless job. With the championship now wrapped up, it was a good chance to look at something different for Great Britain and we feel privileged to run Hayden in a Subaru-supported car and help to develop the R4. This car has been built in a very short space of time but we are confident that it will be very fast for the event and that Hayden will adapt well."
STI sporting manager George Donaldson is also enthusiastic about Paddon's inaugural R4 drive. "With Hayden having proved himself such a unique and dominant talent, it is fantastic for us to encourage both Symtech Racing and Hayden to test the Impreza R4 in Wales Rally GB. Symtech Racing has a long and successful history in the production championship and great experience with Subaru. The working relationship between Hayden and the team is also terrific, so we can have high hopes of a top performance in this year's final WRC event. We were delighted to have a successful WRC debut of the R4 in Finland where PG Andersson and the Tommi Makinen Racing-run machine finished 15th overall, so we are looking forward to another positive outcome in Wales with Hayden and Symtech."
Wales Rally GB runs from 10 to 13 November, covering forest and gravel roads in a wide area around Cardiff. Paddon has started the famous Welsh event twice - in 2007 he only managed five kilometres of the first stage, while in 2010 he fought back from mechanical woes to finish third in class.
Paddon appreciates the support of his team, his many supporters around New Zealand and across the world and his valued financial partners, which include Subaru New Zealand, EDL Fasteners, CR Properties, Placemakers, Van Leeuwen Dairy, Milwaukee, Racetech Seats, Castrol, Dunlop, Radio Sport, Radio Hauraki, Camerons Sea and Air Freight, Endless Brakes, In-tune Automotive, All About Signs, Total Automotive, Reaction Racing, Raiseys Sport Nutrition, Chicane Racewear, RallyTours, Alto Lab, Pope Print, Granger Design, Bluebridge Ferry, 1 Group and Symtech Racing for their support with his 2011 campaign.