Hayden Paddon writes after the latest WRC round in Spain.….
We have completed another relatively successful rally, finishing Rally Spain 6th and continuing our progress on Tarmac from the previous round in Corsica.
While we are happy with some of our stage times and splits, some factors worked against us from potentially being higher up the leaderboard. There also a small part of me that wants to start fighting for silverware again, but at the same time I know we have to be patient.
We started the rally with high hopes, with a full day of gravel rallying on Friday. And the rally got off to a good start, winning the pre event shakedown and then we tied the first stage on Friday morning. However, the long 35km mixed surface stage (25km gravel and 10km tarmac) that has never been a happy ground for us in the past, proved to be our undoing again. On the first pass a slow puncture cost us some time, and in the afternoon struggled to get a good feeling with the car. Without any service and the rougher roads, the car was getting knocked around a lot, and by days end the geometry was all hay-wire which certainly didn’t help with our feeling in the car.
Without a gravel test for this rally, we used our Rally Australia setup. However as Friday progressed, it became clear that the narrower, more technical nature of the Spanish stages required the front of the car to be more active. Without a midday service on Friday (only a tyre change) we were unable to change this, but we did the best we could and still ended the day 6th, well within reach of the guys ahead – while setting several top 4 times.
Day 2 and 3 tarmac stages were always going to be more of a challenge, but the goal was to keep learning and continue the progression. Also here the tarmac stages are completely contrasting to the tight/narrow Corsica stages, so was a good chance to hone our tarmac skills in a different environment.
The feeling on tarmac was good and a marked improvement of where we were last year. In 2014 on this rally, we averaged 0.3 seconds per km behind our team mates, where this year we were ahead of one of our team mates, and less than 0.1 behind Dani Sordo. I feel Dani is one of the best tarmac drivers in the WRC and is a perfect person to learn from and to have as a benchmark. His podium this weekend is proof of that, which he really deserves after some bad luck this year. It was also nice to have our first fastest spilt on tarmac and set more stage times in the top 3. While these may seem like small details, this is really important information I can use to study and analysis so that we can join all the dots together for the future.
While 3 self inflicted punctures over the weekend cost us a potential top 4 finish, we were also lucky that they did not cost us more time, able to drive out on each one without stopping to change.
Now the focus is on preparing thoroughly for Rally GB. It’s a rally we have good experience of and a rally that reminds me of rallying at home, in the middle of the winter in the southern forests. We are really looking forward to it and hopefully we can start stringing together all the positives to try and bring home a good result.
A huge thanks to the team who as always gave us a perfect car and continue to work tirelessly behind the scenes. The podium for the team this weekend is a good reward for all there hard work. Also for all the messages of support – particularly after our announcement last week. I read them all and really appreciate it.
Until Rally GB,