WRC driver Hayden Paddon gives us a preview of Rally Finland…….
Well, it’s time for the holy grail event of the year, the one that I look forward to the most every year: Rally Finland.
So what makes it so special? Not only is it the fastest rally of the year, the countless jumps, crests and wide roads make it a roller coaster where we are sometimes flying more than we are on the ground. The increased speed of this year’s cars will only add to the special adrenaline rush. Throw in hundreds of thousands of fans, a crazy atmosphere and an event history that reads the who’s who of rallying – it all means this is the one that everyone wants to win.
As always, that is easier said than done, but of course it’s always the target. Not only are the local Finn drivers fast (only a handful of non-Scandinavian drivers have ever won here), but on an event with such high speeds, the margins are often very small. That’s especially true this year: Because the cars and competition are so close, this will be the closest fought rally of the year. Anyone in the top 10 is capable of a podium.
There’s no room for error or ‘sluggish’ stages on this event, so we have put a lot of focus on the pre-event prep. We have about 2/3 of the stages from previous years, so we have spent many hours studying the videos to fine-tune the pacenotes to get them to an optimum level. We also had a really good two-day test last month in Finland, which we confirmed with a short two-hour test last week where the car was feeling the best I had ever felt it. We are hoping conditions are similar to what we tested in so that same feeling can be translated into the rally and stage times.
Of course, with our sport, there are so many variables that affect the events – none more so than the weather. By starting 7th on the road for day 1, we are hoping for dry weather. To date, the Finnish summer has been very wet and unsettled, so we are expecting rain throughout the rally – but exactly when and how much is not yet clear. Regardless of the conditions, we will be pushing 110% on this event to try for a repeat podium from Poland three weeks ago.
Rally Finland was initially planned as the last event John and I would compete in together. As we know, due to unforeseen circumstances, that plan changed a few months ago. John will still be on events with us and we will celebrate our career together here in Finland as originally planned. We have a couple of nice things on the calendar which we will keep you up to date with during and after the event.
Again, thank you for all your support. I also know there will be many Kiwis here, and it’s humbling to know people travel around the world to support us and wave the New Zealand flag. We will do our best to make you all proud.