Buoyed by the support of Red Bull Energy Drink, Kiwi star rally drivers Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are looking forward to the final international event of their 2012 season when RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España takes place from 9 to 11 November.
While his chances of winning a second world rally championship title in two years disappeared in France in October, Paddon remains focussed on plans for 2013 and demonstrating his pace and talents to those who make key decisions in the ultra-competitive environment of world rallying.
"To win our category, the Super 2000 World Rally Championship class, in Spain would be great!" says Paddon from his current base in the UK city of Northampton before he heads for the Spanish event this Sunday.
When the 25-year-old New Zealander, from Geraldine, announced the Red Bull Energy Drink sponsorship in October, he became the latest in a long line of motorsport stars to get Red Bull backing. It's a one-event deal which ensures Paddon and Blenheim-based co-driver John Kennard can compete in their Skoda Fabia Super 2000 prepared by Austria-based Baumschlager Rallye & Racing (BRR) in the Spanish event which wraps up the 2012 World Rally Championship. BRR team manager Raimund Baumschlager has a well-established connection with Red Bull and was pivotal in helping Paddon establish a relationship with the iconic brand.
Paddon says: "This year has been about illustrating our speed, and with the support of Red Bull for Spain, we need to lift it to another notch.
"It has been an incredibly difficult season, certainly one of the most frustrating ones that I've ever had," says the 2011 FIA Production World Rally Champion. "But that's part of the sport and we have learnt a lot. Apart from Sweden, we have been the fastest SWRC competitor on every rally and we have won more than double the stages of our competitors, so there are definitely some positives to take from our performances this season.
"A good result in Spain will certainly help us go into next year with a lot of confidence, and we'll be putting much of this season behind us. I'm excited to be back in the car next weekend and also thinking about future opportunities."
Paddon did a small test with the team in Austria on 25 October. "The wet snowy conditions were not very representative of what we can expect in Spain. Nevertheless it was a good test and the team from BRR have been working very hard developing new setups for the car which is working well."
Based in Salou, the Spanish event is run on roads to the west of the coastal city. The first day, Friday 9 November, utilises a challenging mix of gravel and asphalt, followed by two days of asphalt stages and a total of 405.46 competitive kilometres.
Paddon says that the shakedown stage, where non-WRC teams can do their one and only full speed run in their rally car on Thursday, is also mixed surface.
"This allows us to confirm the advancements that we made during the test in Austria.
"Basically we view the rally as two separate events. The gravel section will be good as this is my favoured surface, but the change over to tarmac on Saturday morning to tarmac will be critical, and requires a seamless adaptation into a smooth, non-aggressive driving style to best tackle . This is where a lot of time could be gained."
The mix of asphalt and gravel stages on the same event also adds to the team's workload, as they have to convert the cars from gravel to asphalt specification in the restricted timeframe of the official service periods.
The official Hayden Paddon World Rally Team tour group is travelling to Spain to support Paddon and Kennard in their season finale and Paddon is looking forward to another boost of enthusiasm he's sure to enjoy from the group's presence.
"We are all staying in the same hotel, so we'll eat with the group as much as we can and generally welcome them as part of the team. It is amazing the support we have for this event and the amount of people travelling from NZ. Hopefully we can give them the result to cheer for.
"I'm absolutely rapt to have the opportunity to do this event in Spain, so I'd like to thank our team manager Raimund, the whole BRR team, Red Bull and everyone involved with Hayden Paddon RallySport Global for helping to make this event possible. We'll be giving it our utmost!"
Following Rally Spain, Paddon returns to New Zealand to work on competition plans for 2013 and he'll also be conducting two tuition courses to help fellow drivers.
Paddon and the New Zealand World Rally Team appreciate the support of the following organisations: Red Bull Energy Drink, PlaceMakers, Giltrap Group, Skoda, Z Energy, ENZED, ATEED, GO Rentals, Cameron Sea and Airfreight, Granger Design, Raiseys, New Balance, Pope Print, Racetech, Chicane Racewear, Endless Brake Pads, 1 Group web design, Brita Safety, Rally Tours, MAK-Corp, EPS International, Saddle Hill Quarries, Monit Rally Computers, Bluebridge Ferries, Stadium Finance, and Ewing Engineering Contractors.
Hayden Paddon RallySport shares news, images and results via the team's website www.haydenpaddon.com where fans can also subscribe for regular email updates and find links to the team's Twitter and Facebook pages.