Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard have finished their 2015 World Rally Championship season with another strong fifth place – their sixth of the season – on a typically wet and muddy Wales Rally GB.
Following gale force winds and persistent rain overnight, the Kiwis starting the final Sunday (UK time) leg of four stages in sixth position overall. Setting two fourth-quickest and one third-quickest stage times, and with the demise of Ott Tanak, they stepped up another rung on the leader-board to fifth.
“A top five result here is what we were aiming for before the rally,” says Paddon. “Okay, we didn’t probably get it the way we wanted to. We lacked a bit of speed and confidence, but as the weekend progressed we were able to pick things up. Today we finished on a high, we were able to keep the challenge of the local boy [Elfyn Evans] behind us and pick up a place as well.”
Driving in the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team with team-mate Dani Sordo, Paddon and Sordo – who finished fourth – gave everything they had in a bid to chase second place in the WRC manufacturers’ championship. Ultimately, the result was not quite enough to overhaul the Citroën World Rally Team for the runner-up spot a position that Hyundai Motorsport held earlier in the season – as the team ended the season six points adrift in third place.
“We knew heading into this final day that it would be difficult to take second place off Citroën and so it proved to be,” Paddon said. “I think we can be satisfied to have finished the season on a charge.”
On Friday, the New Zealanders had a tough day in their Hyundai i20 WRC. With inconsistent grip on the muddy stages, a spin, then hydraulic problems, they managed to stay calm to get to the day’s end in seventh place.
Saturday’s long itinerary tests all the competitors – Paddon described it as another up and down day. Further gearbox issues and the challenges of reading the muddy, slippery conditions correctly were countered by improvements in performance and enjoyment of the two night stages.
Paddon said: “All in all, it’s been an amazing year. To finish half of the rallies this year in the top five is much more than we ever expected.
“We are always learning and still trying to improve. With the new car and full season ahead next year, we’ve got high expectations that we can even be challenging for rally wins.
“An amazing season with Hyundai and we’re really looking forward to 2016. We’ve got a really busy winter now ahead to prepare with testing and further develop and fine-tune our systems so that we can come out fighting next year. It’s all really good; bring on 2016!”
Paddon now returns to New Zealand briefly to co-judge the Red Bull Trolley Grand Prix in Auckland before returning to Europe for more testing with the team in their new generation i20 WRC car.