Hayden Paddon heads to Poland for his sixth World Rally Championship event of 2015, looking forward to the fast roads and staying focused on his game plan of a top five finish.
“At the start of the year we set our target for this event to finish in the top five and that remains the same,” says Paddon from Finland, where he’s been testing with Hyundai Motorsport for the event following Poland.
“Yes, our good result in Sardinia gives us more confidence and people maybe expect more from us now, but we won’t get carried away. For John [Kennard, Paddon’s co-driver] and me, our plan and approach remains the same, taking each event as it comes.”
Almost 90% of Rally Poland’s route has changed from last year, but the 2 to 5 July event continues to feature the fast, sandy roads for which it’s known – Paddon describes it as a “sprint rally”.
The event takes place in the Masurian lake district north of Warsaw and includes a ceremonial start and a super special stage on Thursday evening, a long leg of around 150 competitive kilometres on Friday with no opportunity for competitors to have their cars serviced until after all eight stages are complete, Saturday’s three stages that are driven twice, and just two stages on Sunday.
Of the lack of Friday midday service, Paddon says: “Generally the stages are not too hard on the car or tyres. This is more of a sprint rally so despite no service on Friday, it is flat-out from the first stage. Our Poland test last month was in very soft, sandy conditions. We can also use data from our Finland test last week on harder roads, which gives us good info for the rally. We have made some small setup changes but nothing dramatic. In general these stages suit me better.”
Their debut WRC podium finish at Rally Italy Sardinia earlier in June moved Paddon and Kennard into ninth place on the WRC drivers’ and co-drivers’ championship tables respectively. With the running order for Friday and Saturday’s stages based on championship position, the Kiwis will start ninth on the road on Friday.
Paddon and Kennard, from Geraldine and Blenheim respectively, are one of 14 WRC crews entered for Rally Poland, and for the first time this season, they’ll be one of four Hyundai Motorsport crews.
In Hyundai Shell World Rally Team colours are Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul in the #7 Hyundai i20 WRC car and Dani Sordo and Marc Martí in the #8 car. Joining Paddon and Kennard in the Hyundai Mobis Rally Team are Kevin Abbring and Sebastian Marshall who are competing in the first of four events in the #10 Hyundai i20 WRC.
In what has been a strong season to date, the hard-working Kiwi continues to push himself with each and every outing in the Hyundai i20 WRC.
“Later in the year I think we can aim higher with the extra confidence we are building with the car and events. But for now Sardinia is only one event and the upcoming events in Poland, Finland and Germany are quite contrasting. The fast gravel events in Poland and Finland suit us a lot better but they also suit others too – and the competition in the top ten is very close.”