New Zealand’s most successful rally driver Hayden Paddon is aiming for a consistent pace on this week’s Rally Argentina where he’ll be competing in his Hyundai i20 WRC car with co-driver John Kennard.
“Argentina is going to be a very rough rally this year,” says Paddon from his base in Frankfurt, Germany. “There has been a lot of rain and road damage in the past few weeks. So the objective is to set a consistent pace and try and avoid problems. If we can do that, then we hope we can finish well within the top eight.”
The 23 to 26 April Argentinean event sees the Kiwis back in competition under the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team banner and while Paddon says it helps to a certain extent to have previous experience on the only South American event on the WRC circuit, that experience isn’t of huge value.
“We were here once before four years ago and now, none of the stages are the same. But any experience is good and we will draw on that as much as we can.”
As part of the preparation for his third WRC event of this season, Paddon joined his Hyundai Motorsport team-mates for a test in Portugal.
“I was really happy with what we achieved with the test, but of course the proof is always once we get on-event.
“We worked on two key aspects. One related to the set-up direction we went for in Mexico. While it felt good and was driver-friendly, it did not produce the grip and traction that we needed. We now have some new set-up strategies that are working well in testing. Secondly, we have closely identified the key areas where my driving differs from our team-mates, and we are trying to adapt some of that.”
Among the main characteristics of the rally are spectacular water splashes, lunar-like landscapes and sandy gravel roads, which often become rutted on the second pass. The route is also very different to most other WRC events – just 12 special stages in total, the Friday and Saturday itineraries both comprise just two repeated runs of two very long stages, plus Sunday’s two runs of the famous El Condor test.
Paddon doesn’t rate the long stages as being any more difficult than shorter ones. “It’s really no different if you’re doing a five or 50 km stage. The same preparation and mental approach goes for both. But the key in Argentina with the small number of competitive stages and long touring stages will be switching on and off mentally during the long gaps between stages.”
Kennard says their pre-event reconnaissance will include writing all pace notes from scratch.
“We only had one real stage of Argentina notes from 2011 and with our system having changed a bit since then, we have decided to write everything from scratch,” says Blenheim-based Kennard. “This means my pre-Argentina work is the usual familiarisation with timings, travel and recce schedules. However, as I only have one week at home between now and early July, with four rallies – three WRC plus Otago – and two tests in that time, I’ve made sure to take some time to prepare notes for future events plus schedules, travel and on-event commitment for these events.” Paddon says the weather is expected to be a little warmer than usual, as the rally is being run a month earlier than its usual calendar slot.
“Some rain is normal in Argentina, which helps keeps the dust down.
“Once we’re through the challenges of Argentina we’re back to Europe and more familiar events, so we have greater expectations in terms of results for those.”
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.