With his Skoda Fabia rally car repaired and his determination to deliver a strong performance undeterred, Hayden Paddon attacked Saturday’s six competitive stages of Rally Australia with gusto to take four well-deserved WRC2 category stage victories and set times inside the top ten of the World Rally Championship (WRC) field.
They were also the seventh quickest among the WRC competitors on two stages and ninth quickest on three further stages. While Paddon is pleased to be running and competing strongly, he still sees room for improvement and would like to overcome a few niggling problems such as losing the intercom for about 10 km in Saturday’s 49 km opening stage.
At the midday service he reported: “The car is great, the chassis is nice and really nice to drive – it just needs more horsepower.”
During the afternoon a gearshift issue didn’t help, but Paddon remained positive, saying: “It just sort of upsets the rhythm a little bit. You can still push on a little bit so that’s encouraging.”
Paddon’s strong stage times have buoyed the New Zealander who now holds fifth place among the eight remaining WRC2 competitors and 17th overall.
He reports: “A much better day today here at Rally Australia as firstly we got through the day with no major problems. Being able to win all four forestry stages and one of the super special stages, even mixing it amongst the WRC cars, was pleasing.
“Overall we are happy with our speed and being able to set the top seven and top nine stage times which were less than 1.7 seconds per kilometre behind the WRC cars – one of my goals. We were also 1 minute and 30 seconds quicker than the next person in WRC2 throughout today, so plenty of positives to take away.
“While a good result is still too hard to achieve after our 35 minutes of penalties yesterday, we are still targeting to set some fast stage times tomorrow. Stage times are just as important at this point as an overall result to allow us to try and get the attention of the right people so that we can get the chance we’re looking for next season. The team continues to do an amazing job, working very hard to solve the small issues we have been having.
“Tomorrow, Sunday, we hope for more good stage times and for a smother run through the stages. It is possible to get fourth or fifth in WRC2 so it does give us an end goal for the day.”
Ford Fiesta RRC driver Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari took the lead in the WRC 2 category on Saturday morning from yesterday’s leader Yuriy Protasov. Paddon is over 30 minutes behind Al-Kuwari and will continue pushing to try and improve his WRC2 and overall placings.
Rally Australia is the tenth round of the 2013 FIA World Rally Championship and takes place in and around Coffs Harbour, New South Wales from 13 to 15 September. It’s the third and possibly last WRC event that Paddon and Kennard will contest this season having secured third place in the WRC2 category in both Finland and Germany.
The schedule for Sunday, the final day, starts around 9am with two repeated loops of three stages to the north of Coffs Harbour followed by the official finish at 4pm.
Following this event, Paddon and Kennard return to New Zealand to continue working on plans for their 2014 international season. They will also contest the 5 October running of Racetech Rally Wairarapa, the final round of the 2013 New Zealand Rally Championship.