South Canterbury 20-year-old Hayden Paddon aims to get among the world's fastest standard production car rally drivers and make his mark in today's second leg of Rally New Zealand.
Points leader Hayden Paddon says it would be “excellent” if he could wrap up the 2008 Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship in today’s second leg of Repco Rally NZ.
Going into today’s action, he’s 40 points ahead of fellow Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 driver Chris West on championship points and has a chance of securing the crown.
The first two days of Rally NZ double as the second to last round of the national series. Paddon is second in the event’s NZRC section, behind runaway leader Richard Mason who also leads Group N overall after an absolutely sensational drive through yesterday’s seven stages.
But Paddon is also entered in the event’s Production World Rally Championship (PWRC) section.
That pitches him against the world’s fastest Group N (production car) drivers and a good showing there is a key part of Paddon’s plan to forge an international career.
Paddon won a Repco scholarship which gave him a subsidised entry into the category.
“The main priority (today) is to find some speed,” he says. “You only get one chance to compare yourself with those guys.”
And Paddon aims to show pace that will impress international teams and observers.
He made a slowish start yesterday as he came to grips with the hard compound Pirelli tyres the WRC organisers have made mandatory for Rally NZ.
But as the day progressed, he found better rhythm.
“It wasn’t a bad day,” he says. “We’re still a long way off with set-up on the new tyres, and we weren’t able to do any testing for the event.”
Earlier this week Paddon was laid low by flu and couldn’t drive in the PWRC test day.
“But we’ve made a few changes for the suspension set-up for today. My biggest problem yesterday was staying in the two clean lines (where earlier cars had swept gravel aside).
“The car was jumping out of them and getting into the loose stuff.”
As the action switches to roads in the coastal north Waikato and Counties regions today, Paddon has one clear objective.
“My aim this weekend is to get on to the pace of the front-runners in Group N (the PWRC drivers).” And take a decisive step in his quest for an international rally career.