Hayden Paddon reflects on his third placing at the Kennards Hire Rally Australia last weekend…..
It’s great to be back in NZ after a successful week in Australia. Third place at Rally Australia was certainly an unexpected bonus, but nice to have a little luck swing our way for a change.
With no pre-event test, preparation was focused on a good recce and good pace notes. We then used the pre-event Shakedown to fine-tune the setup, which we brought from the previous event in Wales.
Naturally, we wanted a good result on what is effectively the closest thing we get to a home rally. However, we also remained realistic that confidence was not at an all-time high, so we wanted to focus on just enjoying the day. But, a lot of our enjoyment comes from being competitive – so it’s a double-edged sword.
Rain was threatening in the forecast all week and we knew if it did come, it would turn the clay-base roads into an ice rink. Luckily, it held off on Friday. Despite our good road position, we were struggling for that ‘feeling’ and failed to capitalise on our advantage. Being in seventh at the end of day one also meant we did not have the road position we wanted for day two, and we were on the back foot.
Some rain eventuated Saturday morning which provided some of the most mixed conditions I have ever seen. We started the famous 50km Nambucca stage (one of my favourites) in full wet/mud conditions. But after 10-12km, the road became suddenly dry and felt completely different. In these conditions, tyre choice was almost impossible which meant we saw varying choices.
On Saturday, we started to make a small breakthrough as we identified a small area of the car that has been troubling me and preventing me from driving in my natural style all year. While we were staying in touch with those around us, we simply lacked the ultimate speed we would have liked, so focused on information/testing and enjoying the rest of the event.
The rain eventually came on Sunday and it made for some of the trickiest conditions we have seen in the WRC in recent times. It also provided some opportunities and carnage – as we were able to win a stage to move to fourth, then on the final stage Jari Matti Latvala unfortunately crashed from second which gave us a very unexpected podium. Of course it’s never the way that you want to get a podium, but after the year we had had, we will take it. It also makes up for the podium we lost on the final day at Rally Australia 12 months earlier.
A huge thanks to our tour group and all Kiwi fans who made the journey over for the event. It’s truly humbling to have such incredible support and the sea of blue Paddon’s Pack flags were a talking point of the event. A huge thanks to everyone that helped to put the tour together. A big thanks also to our team Hyundai Motorsport who stuck with us all year. While we had our challenges, many lessons have been learnt and we will put this year behind us to reset for 2018. And a huge thanks to all you as our supporters for your unconditional support and messages – it really means a lot.
Now we are preparing for this weekend Rally of NZ with our NZ Rally team driving the Hyundai AP4+. Some of the old iconic Rally NZ stages are being used out Raglan way on Saturday, and then back to Tauranga on Sunday for some new stages. You can follow the event at chrissport.kiwi
Thanks and talk soon,