Paddon fired up for Finnish WRC rally
Ace Kiwi rally driver Hayden Paddon starts this weekend’s Rally Finland atop the Production World Rally Championship standings and determined to repeat last year’s production category podium finish in the spectacularly fast rally.
Last year, Paddon, from Geraldine, and co-driver John Kennard, from Blenheim, contested the Finnish WRC event for the first time as part of their Pirelli Star Driver programme, finishing a very well-placed third among production category competitors.
This year, the ambitious 24-year-old Kiwi aims to at least repeat last year’s performance during the hugely popular 28 to 30 July rally.
“Getting on the podium is a minimum. Of course, we’ll be trying for more,” said Paddon after testing his Symtech Racing-built Subaru STI rally car on Sunday 24 July with other PWRC and Super 2000 World Rally Championship competitors.
“Finland is going to be a very tough event but it is good to come back to an event we have prior experience of, having done the event last year
“Last year I made the mistake of being too conservative with the pace notes, so this year I know we can attack the roads and crests a lot more.”
Having finished second in the International Rally of Whangarei just days before he flew out to Europe, Paddon is drawing on the fact he had to push hard for the whole two-day Asia Pacific Rally Championship event as he tried to chase down the outright winner Australian Chris Atkinson.
“Having to drive flat out in Whangarei was good preparation for Finland. On some of the other events we’ve only had to consolidate our position and not battle all the way to the finish.
“The high-speed nature of the Finnish roads suits me. I have always enjoyed the fast stages, and some of the stages here are absolutely flat out.”
Naturally, Paddon would like to win the PWRC class in Finland as he has successfully done at this year’s two earlier PWRC events in Portugal and Argentina. “But this is the hardest rally to try and do that on when you take into account the experience of our fellow competitors and also the fast wildcard local entries. A podium is a minimum, but we will be trying for more!”
WRC commentators say that being successful on Rally Finland requires ‘sisu’, which loosely translates into English as ‘having guts’, plus extremely accurate pace notes for negotiating the smooth and compact gravel tracks.
Paddon said Sunday’s test was helpful as he and the Belgium-based Symtech team have been struggling with the rear of the car all season. “After some lessons learnt at Rally Whangarei, we now think we have some answers. Here it is crucial to have a car that has good grip but is also stable so you can keep up the speed in the very fast corners. Any hesitation equals time lost down the next straight.”
Sunday’s test was cut short as the road was cutting up, so Paddon and Kennard will use Thursday morning’s shakedown session to confirm some final changes to the Subaru after completing three days of reconnaissance, Monday through Wednesday, in a regular road car.
Rally Finland is based in the university city of Jyvaskyla in the centre of the country. Described as a flat-out all-gravel contest, Paddon and Kennard face charging through tree-lined straights and flying over blind crests during the 314.39 kilometres of competitive rallying divided into 22 special stages. Several of the stages have changed for this year’s rally, with five stages previously unused and a move south on Friday to roads around Lahti in order to tap into larger areas of population.
The rally officially starts at 4pm on Thursday, 28 July with three evening stages. The schedule for the next two days is intense with eight stages on Friday and 11 stages on Saturday before the 9pm finish that evening.
Paddon goes into Rally Finland with 50 points in the 2012 FIA Production World Rally Championship, equal with Czech driver Martin Semerád. Paddon is ranked above the Mitsubishi driver as he has contested one less event so far this year than Semerád. After Finland, Paddon heads to PWRC rounds in Australia, Spain and Great Britain, while Semerád drops the Australian event.
Paddon would like to thank the continued support he gets from his loyal partners, which include Subaru New Zealand, EDL Fasteners, CR Properties, 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.