Hyundai Motorsport driver Hayden Paddon reviews the latest WRC round, Rally Finland…….
Well, unfortunately it’s another one of these post-event updates that I have become too familiar with writing this year – what could have been. Some stray rocks on the weekend in Finland ruined any chances of a result, but again we were able to show some speed and fight at the front.
The rally started well for us, sitting 3rd overall after stage 3 amongst a very competitive and fast-paced field. Everything was working well with the car and we had some reserves left in the tank. However, early on in stage 4, we ran slightly wide, (maybe 2-3 inches) and our rear wheel hit a rock hidden in the grass, which broke our rear suspension. Several others also hit the same rock, but our consequences were a lot worse and we were out for the day. To make matters worse, after rejoining for Saturday, we were unable to avoid a stray rock (this time in the middle of the road) around a blind 5th gear corner. It hit the rear wheel, and again we were forced out with broken suspension. We rejoined and completed Sunday’s final 4 stages, which was little consolation for what could have been a strong weekend for us.
It has been unbelievable, the year we have had, and the silly things that we have been confronted with. However, we are not letting this get us down – we are still feeling positive and upbeat. In fact, there are many lessons we are learning this year that will make us stronger to fight for the title next year.
I feel like a more complete driver now than I was 12 months ago: I feel like we can adapt to different road characters, super special stages and grip levels more than ever before. Mentally, I also feel much stronger – I’m not letting these bumps in the road throw me off as much as they used to. It’s also positive to know that on all gravel rallies this year, we have been winning stages and are capable of podiums. And this is all the while knowing there are some key areas we can still improve both with my driving and with the car setup.
It is easy for critics to sit back and say we are making too many mistakes this year and so on. But what most don’t understand is what is actually happening – despite 2-3 key errors this year, a lot of other things have been out of our control. Of course, we want and expect better results, but sometimes you have to accept moments like these and use them as fuel to be even better, stronger and faster. I’m sure 2017 will be a year that we will look back on in the future as a key year to help us achieve our ultimate goal.
Of course, we still have four rallies left this year. Every time I get in the car, we want to achieve the best result possible, but the focus is also ensuring we are 100% prepared for 2018 in terms of driving, car and mental preparation.
It was great having John here this weekend as we celebrated our 12 years together. There were several functions over the weekend and it was clear the rally community hugely respected John and his commitment to the sport, which was humbling to see. John and I also did the last run on the Thursday shakedown together, and crossing the finish line did bring a small tear to my eye thinking of everything we had been through together.
John and I will continue working together and we know we are on the right path for the future. Thanks John – you have been a true legend not just for us, but for NZ rallying. Looking forward to our new partnership together outside the car as we continue to work towards the common goal of world champion.
And to my pack – thanks again for all your support. I’m looking forward to the transition to tarmac as we prepare for Rally Germany in two weeks – starting with testing this week.