Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are taking the positives, such as their top five pace, away from this weekend’s Rally Argentina after a tough, incident-packed event.
The New Zealanders finished their third event of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship with the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team in 16th place overall. While the overall result wasn’t what they had hoped for, they took encouragement from being able to set top five pace in several stages and finished on with encouraging sixth and seventh quickest times through the famed El Condor stage, the two repeated runs of the 16.32 km stage which formed the entirety of Sunday’s itinerary.
“It was obviously a difficult day, but good to get back in the car and get some miles, and try to build on some confidence again,” said Paddon at the finish. “Obviously it’s a short day with just two stages, so today it was just important to bring the car home which we’ve done and now we can try and look forward to Portugal.”
Early on Friday’s and Saturday’s legs, the pair achieved those top five stage times which were more in line with their expectations, before being knocked out of the running each day. On Friday, it was the Argentinean event’s notoriously rough roads which took their toll on Paddon’s Hyundai i20 WRC car. A gearbox mount broke partway through the morning’s opening 51.99 km leg, but Paddon and Kennard were still able to set the fifth quickest time. Nursing the car through the following 19.71 km stage, in 20th position, they returned to the mid-leg service to find the damage to the car – in particular a broken exhaust manifold – too great to be repaired in the allocated time.
They restarted on Saturday under Rally 2 regulations and quickly got back in the groove with a fifth and sixth quickest times on the opening two stages. But then, near the start of stage nine, a small kicker jump caused Paddon’s car to land on its side on two wheels close to the edge of the road. Neither Paddon or Kennard were injured in the incident, however six spectators were injured and received immediate medical attention at the scene, following the officials’ halting of this stage for other competitors.
“It wasn’t a nice incident. Our best wishes go out to everyone who was involved,” said Paddon on Saturday evening.
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “Naturally, our first thoughts go to the spectators who were injured after the #20 Hyundai i20 WRC left the road in SS9. Thankfully, they have been treated very quickly by the authorities on site. We are in contact with the FIA and rally organisers to determine precisely what happened.”
Paddon’s car was easily repairable, so once again he re-joined on Sunday to gain further experience.
Paddon commented: “Overall it’s been a difficult event but nothing more than we expected. We could see on the reconnaissance that it was going to be hard on the cars. We had planned to take it nice and easy this weekend knowing that conditions were rough. Some things just unfortunately didn’t work out. I think it was important for us to re-join today just to get some confidence and to get some momentum for the next rallies. There were some nice stages this weekend, particularly SS3 on Friday, really nice and smooth. As an event, it’s a nice challenge and different from the others we do, and that’s what the World Rally Championship is all about.
“We know when all the pieces of the puzzle come together that we can be competitive up the front so we’ll take what we can from this one and move on.”
Paddon and Kennard now return to New Zealand where they will contest the Otago Classic Rally, 8-10 May, before returning to Europe for the 21-24 May running of Rally Portugal.