Kiwi rally drivers Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are reaping the benefits of plenty of hard work during the off-season and return, lean and keen, to the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship with this week’s Rally Sweden.
Paddon and Kennard, New Zealand’s most successful combination in world rallying, return to Hyundai Motorsport for a 12 event programme in 2015.
This season Paddon takes a new role with the team as the lead driver in the recently-announced Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team, which runs in parallel to the two-car Hyundai Shell World Rally Team with drivers Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo.
However, due to Sordo’s recent training injury, Paddon and Kennard step into the #8 Hyundai i20 WRC car normally run by Sordo and co-driver Marc Marti for the Swedish rally, while Paddon’s #20 car will be driven by team’s test driver Kevin Abbring and co-driver Sebastian Marshall, now making their debut for the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team.
Regarding the sudden change in team structure for Sweden, Paddon says: “It’s humbling to be given the chance to be a part of the official team and to help them score points in the manufacturer’s championship.
“Of course it adds a little pressure to finish the rally to make sure we can score points for the team but in saying this, the plan is always to finish, so we will not change our approach. Our engineer will move with us to focus on the #8 Hyundai i20 WRC. All the cars are virtually the same anyway; the only small difference is that we do have to use some of Dani’s setup as some components are linked. But this isn’t a problem, and I’m excited by the prospect of driving car #8.”
For this first event of the season, Paddon says he’s looking forward to getting back in the groove. Preparing for the biggest WRC season of their career has seen both Paddon and Kennard – from Geraldine and Blenheim respectively – work hard on their physical fitness.
Kennard says the break since November’s Wales Rally GB has been about trying to find a balance between physical training and weight: “We try to be in top condition, but still keep the engineers happy by not gaining too many kilos doing it.”
The running of Rally Sweden takes place from 12-15 February and covers a total distance of 1,441.57 kilometres with just 308 km of competitive roads broken into 21 special stages. The actions begin with Thursday night’s traditional super special at Karlstad trotting track.
Friday’s opening leg of eight stages sees competitors cross the border to Norway for much of the day with a remote service in Kirkenær, ending with the second super special stage in Karlstad.
Saturday’s eight stages include classic tests in the frozen forests around the Hagfors service park, including the famous Colin’s Crest in Vargåsen, where as a mark of respect for the late Colin McRae, an award is made for the longest jump here. The record is 37 metres, shared by Ken Block and Marius Aasen.
Sunday’s itinerary has just three tests, including the rally-closing Power Stage in Värmullsåsen, before the Karlstad finish.
Rally Sweden is the only true winter round of the WRC where studded tyres are essential, meaning drivers must acclimatise to the ‘floating’ feeling and different braking points. When temperatures hover around freezing, the studs tear up the road surface and exposed gravel rips them from the tyres to leave little traction. Spare a thought for the teams’ mechanics working in temperatures as low as -25°C.
Paddon and the HPRG team appreciates the support of their exclusive partners, Hyundai New Zealand, PlaceMakers and Pak n’ Save, along with associate support from Z Energy, Scott Sports, New Balance New Zealand and All About Signs Timaru.
Hayden Paddon’s 2015 WRC schedule with Hyundai Motorsport
- WRC Round 2: Sweden, 12-15 February
- WRC Round 3: Mexico, 5-8 March
- WRC Round 4: Argentina, 23-26 April
- WRC Round 5: Portugal, 21-24 May
- WRC Round 6: Italy, 11-14 June
- WRC Round 7: Poland, 2-5 July
- WRC Round 8: Finland, 30 July - 2 August
- WRC Round 9: Germany, 20-23 August
- WRC Round 10: Australia, 10-13 September
- WRC Round 11: France, 1-4 October
- WRC Round 12: Spain, 22-25 October
- WRC Round 13: Great Britain, 12-15 November