Paddon holds steady at WRC Wales Rally GB
Hayden Paddon, New Zealand’s world champion rally driver, hasn’t had the easiest day in his new Subaru R4, but has managed to finish the third day of Wales Rally GB holding steady in 13th position overall.
With co-driver John Kennard, Paddon came through Saturday’s two repeated loops of three stages determined to improve the handling of the new Subaru – which he’s testing for of Subaru Technica International (STI), the motorsport arm of Japanese Subaru manufacturer Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd and his Belgium-based team Symtech Racing – for the rally’s final day on Sunday (UK time). Although the heavy rain which fell on Friday turned into sunshine, grip on the rough gravel tracks was lacking as they remained muddy and slippery.
The 10 to 13 November running of Wales Rally GB is Paddon’s final event for 2011 and the Kiwi was keen to secure it a top ten finish. However inconsistent grip and handling issues throughout Saturday saw Paddon lose the position he held on Friday evening as the top driver of a non-WRC car to Dutchman Kevin Abbring in a Super 2000-spec Skoda Fabia.
The first run through the 32.14km opening stage saw Paddon improve to eleventh overall, but he slipped back to twelfth and then 13th by the repeated run in the afternoon.
At Saturday’s midday service Paddon said: “There's still a long way to go. I'm sure we can get a better end to the rally. Grip was low for everyone, but I think our grip was much lower. It's what we've come to expect when we come to this rally. Every time we come into service, we're changing quite a lot on the car. It's all learning.”
By the end of the day, Paddon acknowledged changes to the car hadn’t worked as he’d hoped. “It's been a tough day. This car is so inconsistent and different in each corner. We are trying all sorts of things but it isn't working. Some things work and some things don't. We have not given up though; we’ll be trying some more changes for tomorrow [Sunday]. We’re currently only five seconds behind the leading S2000 car [Abbring].”
Paddon and Kennard, from Geraldine and Blenheim respectively, commence Sunday’s final six stages around 8am (UK time) and wrap up their 2011 campaign around 3pm when they can properly celebrate winning the Production World Rally Championship title.
After the event, New Zealand’s first-ever world rally champion returns to New Zealand where he’ll participate in a week-long, nation-wide road show with sponsors PlaceMakers and Subaru. Starting in Auckland on 23 November, Paddon will visit many PlaceMakers and Subaru outlets throughout the country to end in Dunedin. “We’ll have more details out after Rally GB about which stores we’re visiting and the day and time of each visit. There are so many giveaways and prizes; it’s going to be really exciting!”
Then, in the second week of December, Paddon heads to the annual FIA gala – in India this year – where he’ll be presented with the silverware for his production world rally championship title.
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, 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.