Hayden Paddon writes…a WRC invite to rally in Sardegna

So the rally season is well and truly in the swing of things now as we approach mid-season, not only here in NZ, but also the World Rally Championship. This week pays host to Rally Sardenga. A rally and a country I have fond memories of, having scored our first WRC podium there in 2015, and a place I lived for over a year. Its also one of the more demanding events on the calendar.

Hayden Paddon and John Kennard finished second in the 2015 Rally Italia Sardegna

One of the massive challenges in Sardegna that you don’t normally see is the really long/drawn out days. Often leaving service park at 5am each day, you wont get back to service until 10pm at night. The long road sections are what drag it out and, exclusively to Italian law, it’s the average speed for road sections that is not legally allowed to exceed 50kmph. This means on a 200km road section to the stages, they would give you something crazy like 3+ hours for the target time. On the motorways you could do it comfortably in 2two hours.

So, it meant we had 40-60min waits before the first stages of the loop, and again when you go back to service at midday.

I remember in 2017 when we were leading the rally that we finished the last stage of the morning loop at 9.30am. By the time we returned to service, then came back out to the stages, it was 3pm. Mentally it was really tough to ‘switch on’ after 6 hours away from the stages.

The other challenge is that it’s often one of the hottest rallies and also quite rough. Not necessarily rough from ruts, more so the large loose rocks that litter the side of the stages and also with a lot of bed rock that is buried in the stages. Because of all this, to be successful in Sardegna, it’s actually about managing the speed at 98% and looking after the car over three-days. Any driver that limits any car damage is guaranteed a good result in the top five.

Gravel sweeping also plays a huge part, so drivers starting six-nine on the road will have a big advantage, which if they are smart, they can hold onto the whole weekend.

On current form, and also the winner of the event the past 2 years, Dani Sordo would be my pick. He is very good at driving the car at that required 98% over three-days to look after the car while at a good pace.

Don’t rule out Ott Tanak who has a good road position also, so if he can stay out of trouble he will be a key contender.

It’s an event where Hyundai have always dominated – the i20 has always loved rougher conditions, so I am also picking Hyundai to dominate positions on the podium – maybe even a podium lock out?

We almost had an opportunity a few weeks ago to be in Sardegna in a WRC car after a surprise phone call. However the quarantine rules didn’t make it possible with what was required from the team which was difficult to accept, but the silver lining is that they were still thinking of us. So while we would love to be there, it will still be a great event to watch which I am looking forward to.

Ex WRC driver Hayden Paddon is based in Cromwell, NZ and runs Paddon Rallysport as well as still actively competing in rallying. During his time with the Hyundai World Rally Team, Paddon competed in 81 WRC events, stood on the podium nine times including winning the 2016 Rally Argentina. Hayden joins the Talkmotorsport team writing a bi-weekly column on all things rallying.


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