Hayden Paddon and co-driver Seb Marshall are as prepared as they can be to get back into World Rally Championship action with Hyundai Motorsport at this weekend’s Rally de Portugal (17-20 May).
Paddon is fresh from two record-setting rally victories in New Zealand and has maintained a strict physical and mental training regime. Marshall has also been keeping himself fit and sharp in his native Britain.
Paddon says he’s feeling positive and upbeat going into what will be his seventh run in Portugal.
“If we can refine what we did last year [when we won four stages] coupled with a good road position, then anything is possible,” says the 31-year-old.
“First and foremost, the target is to have a good, clean rally. I think a podium has to be the target for each and every event we do this year, but we have to be smart in how we set out to achieve that.
“We’ll just focus on day by day to put a solid event together. I enjoy Portugal Rally, but a good result has eluded us here in the past.”
With this year’s 358km special stage itinerary virtually a copy-and-paste of last year’s, it’s a level playing field for all WRC competitors who’ve contested earlier events. “That’s a little easier in terms of prep; we just need to refine the pace notes, but at the same time you know the speed will also be a lot higher as everyone knows the stages just as well as we do.”
Paddon and Marshall joined Hyundai Motorsport for a pre-event test in Sardinia last week, where Paddon says it was good to be back in his Hyundai i20 WRC with Marshall.
“We had a great feeling in the car with a slightly different setup direction. We’re now working hard to translate that onto the rally this week where stage conditions can vary quite a lot between first and second pass, tending to become a bit rougher. But we have good experience what to expect with that and will adapt accordingly. The long range weather forecast is looking good which will make for an enjoyable event and also help our road position [11th on road for Friday’s stages].”
Marshall was back up to speed straight away during the Sardinia test and is looking for to getting back into competition this weekend. “Portugal always has a great atmosphere with lots of enthusiastic fans lining the route. It’s usually very competitive so each corner of every stage needs to be spot on!”
Paddon and Marshall – in the #6 car – are part of an expanded Hyundai Motorsport line-up at Portugal, with the team running four cars for Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul, Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio and Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger. The team has named Paddon, Mikkelsen and Neuville as the drivers eligible for championship points for the Hyundai Motorsport team, in accordance with the new-this-year WRC regulations.