Sometimes when it rains it pours, as Team Green and Hayden Paddon have discovered at the opening round of the 2009 FIA Asia Pacific Championship
Running their Mitsubishi Evo 8, the team this weekend tackled Rally New Caledonia, as part of a build up programme aimed at gaining experience for a full out attack on the 2010 series.
Along with regular co-driver John Kennard, Paddon started the event as second seed, completing three promotional super special stages on Friday evening in Noumea, without any opportunity to carry out service work on the car, before being unleashed on the proper rally roads further north on Saturday. Struggling with an underpowered car, the team ended the first evening in 2nd place, behind local hero Jean Louis Leyraud. Fellow Kiwi Brian Green’s rally came to a premature end only 4km into the rally with steering damage on the second super special.
“The super special stages were fantastic, and although the field was a little on the thin side, the fans were very passionate and really got into the occasion. It was great fun, but we were seriously down on engine power, which hindered our progress a bit,” said Hayden.
Hoping to rectify the problem during the next day’s competition, the team travelled the 200km north for the first real action of the rally. Unfortunately the trip bought only more bad news for the team on their debut in the Championship.
“We were cruising along to the first service, when a slight transmission noise from the evening before became much worse, and we began to lose the use of gears one at a time. We managed to limp the last 20km stuck in second gear, with a big hole in the transmission housing and no oil in it, but with only 20 minutes of service time to replace the gearbox.”
Despite their best efforts, the team narrowly missed making the repairs inside their deadline and were excluded from the event.
“Absolutely gutting is the only way to describe it, for everyone; the team, our sponsors and our supporters. With an overseas rallying record that has so far not been to the team’s high standards, we’re now more determined than ever to get things right, and sooner rather than later.”
Repairs were made to restart Leg 2 of the rally on Sunday, in the hope of at least claiming maximum bonus points for the day, but the weather then had the final say, with a tropical cyclone making the competitive sections unpassable. The organisers were left with no alternative but to cancel leg two, leaving no registered APRC finishers.
“Its not very often that weather cuts a rally short, but I guess it was just one of those events that when things go wrong, they really go wrong. Though motorsport can be cruel sometimes, it is experiences like this that make us stronger for next time. The most disappointing thing is that we did not get a chance to experience any of the New Caledonia roads, despite the huge investment both our team and sponsors put in.”
The team will now return home with three weeks to prepare their Mitsubishi Evo9 for round two of the New Zealand Rally Championship, at Otago on the second weekend in May. However, before they attack the southern roads the team will visit Queensland the week before for round two of the Asia Pacific Championship, and a chance to turn around their New Caledonia fortunes.