Hyundai Motorsport WRC driver Hayden Paddon reviews Rally Italia Sardegna ……..
Hope you’re all well. Firstly, apologies for this late update re Rally Sardenga. I was on the plane for New Zealand straight after the event, where I’ve arrived for this week’s Fieldays (if you’re in the area, come and say hi and check out our NZAP4 car on display). It is just a flying visit however, as on Saturday it’s back to Europe for our pre-event Poland test next Monday.
As I’m sure a lot of you know, Rally Sardenga was an event of two halves for us. One very good half, and one very bad.
The good half was going exactly to plan. We’d been leading the event for most of the time up until Stage 12 – but not through outright speed and stage wins. To that point we’d won one stage, but other than that ensured we were in, or close to, the top three on every stage thereafter.
Our plan was about consistency and staying out of trouble, which put us in a good position. Going into Saturday afternoon with only a nine second gap to Ott Tanak, we knew it was the time to put the foot down to try and build a small gap for Sunday. We had the right tyre choice and strategy so we were in a good position to do this.
Unfortunately, I threw that away early into Stage 13 (and no, I’m not superstitious). It was not from going too fast or from over driving, but it was a small mistake that had big consequences. After I braked too early for a right/left fast compensation, I then tried to make up for it by coming on the throttle earlier which meant I also turned in too early.
From this we clipped the bank on the inside, which threw the car wide where there was a small concrete block hiding in the grass on the edge of the road that took the right rear wheel off. Amazingly in the car, we felt no impact on the right, only the left. I knew we’d broken a drive shaft or similar as we dragged the car to the end of the stage, but to find the right rear wheel hanging off at the end was a surprise.
While frustrating, I had no-one to blame but myself for this. But what is more frustrating is nine times out of 10, you get away with these sort of incidents. This year we’ve been punished for every small mistake.
We were punished again for another small error when we rejoined on Sunday, which really wasn’t what we needed – especially when we were just cruising to bring the car home. So many lessons were learnt from the weekend – even if the hard way – that will make us stronger for the future. I’m sorry for the extra work that the team now has to undertake before Poland, but they are all still positive and focused on putting this firmly behind us. This means a lot to Seb and I.
While our season has not been a good one to date, it’s also not as bad as what some people have made it out to be. In the past 12 months I’ve made three mistakes, but the other issues we’ve had and technical failures make it look a lot worse than what it is. The team still have full faith in us – as do Seb and I in ourselves. Things will come right, and from a performance point of view, we’re back on track.
While I can handle the disappointment of letting myself down, letting the team and fans down does upset me. But at the same time this gives me more motivation to dig deeper and work harder to put things right. We will never give up on what we’ve set out to do.
Big congratulations to Ott Tanak on his maiden WRC win. We were teammates during the 2010 Pirelli Star Driver Scholarship and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
A huge thank you goes out to you all for your support through thick and thin. It really does help. It was also amazing to see so many Kiwis over the weekend at the rally. I’d also like to say a huge thanks to our Italian fan base who are all very passionate in their support too.
Now we look forward to Poland – a rally we enjoy. The past is now in the past and we’re only looking forward to one of the fastest rallies on the calendar. Bring it on!