Hayden Paddon and John Kennard head to the German round of the World Rally Championship this week with a fresh mind-set for what will be the first tarmac event of the season for the Kiwi pair.
The 20-23 August event represents Paddon and Kennard’s third run at ADAC Rallye Deutschland, but the first time they’ve piloted a WRC car to tackle what is widely recognised as the most difficult tarmac event of the WRC calendar.
“We have done maybe 30 per cent of the route before which will help, but never in a WRC car,” Paddon says from his European base in Frankfurt, two hours from the rally headquarters in Trier. “The speed difference between WRC2 and WRC cars is much greater on tarmac and this will be the biggest thing to adapt to from our previous experience of this event.”
The German rally provides drivers with a unique series of technical challenges, including twisty Mosel vineyard roads and Baumholder military tracks for which accurate pace notes are essential, particularly to avoid the huge car-breaking kerbstones known as hinkelstein. The weather is typically unpredictable, making tyre choice an important factor and placing a premium on up-to-date information from the team’s weather crew.
“It’s almost like three rallies in one – you have the rough, slippery military range stages, the bumpy, tight technical vineyard stages, and then the sections that are wider, smoother and on public roads. It’s a lot to adjust to.
“As we have only done one event with the Hyundai i20 WRC on tarmac before [Spain last year], we started from scratch with the setup during our one day test with the team the other week. Of course, with a one day test, you are a little restricted time-wise, but we made some good progress and now have a car I’m confident in, albeit setup a little differently to our team-mates.”
Driving the #20 Hyundai i20 WRC in the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team colours, Paddon starts this rally with the same specification car as Hyundai Motorsport team-mates Thierry Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC) and Dani Sordo (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC), who secured a history-making one-two finish at this event last year. This year’s event marks Hyundai Motorsport’s first tarmac event with four cars, as Dutchman Kevin Abbring joins the Hyundai Mobis team for the second time this season, driving the #10 car.
“This event will be more difficult for us, especially with what I would describe as three team-mates who are tarmac specialists. This is a surface we don’t have a lot of experience on. John and I have done this rally a couple of times before and I really enjoy the character of the roads, the way that they wind in and out of the vineyards.
“So, yes, we will have our work cut out for us, but I see this as a positive and I am sure we can learn a lot from our team-mates throughout the rally. The biggest thing, of course, is for us to learn and get to the finish. If we can try and be in the top ten, great!”
As part of his pre-event preparation, Paddon headed to the UK to spend a day with race craft coach, expat Kiwi Rob Wilson.
“It was good to spend some time with Rob who I also did some work with a few years ago. Tarmac rallying requires a different mind-set and understanding of weight transfer and smoothness. Rob really helped to knuckle this into my brain and practice it. It’s not something I will perfect overnight, but gives me plenty to think about and consciously work on.”
Paddon and Kennard are one of 16 WRC crews for the German rally facing Friday’s eight stages, mostly close to the Luxembourg and Belgian borders. Saturday’s nine stages mix country roads, vineyard tracks and the daunting double run through the Panzerplatte military area before Sunday’s final four stages in the Mosel wine area.