Kiwi rally driver Hayden Paddon describes his first tarmac event of his 2015 FIA World Rally Championship season as “a trying but educational three days”.
Paddon and co-driver John Kennard secured ninth position in the 20-23 August running of ADAC Rallye Deutschland, a solid result considering the technical issues the pair experienced on Saturday, the longest day of the rally.
Paddon said: “It’s good to get to the finish and the result doesn’t really reflect the positives we can take out of this weekend and the amount that we’ve learnt, and the amount of miles. This is all obviously information and data we can use to improve on tarmac in the future.”
Having been the quickest of the four Hyundai drivers during Thursday’s shakedown run, Paddon and Kennard came through Friday’s eight stages to hold eighth place overall in a close-fought top ten. They were encouraged by their pace relative to their Hyundai Motorsport team-mates Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville – after eight stages they were just over 20 seconds behind Neuville in fifth place. Both Sordo and Neuville have a lot more experience on tarmac than Paddon and eventually finished this year’s event in fourth and fifth place respectively.
Saturday proved unexpectedly challenging as the Kiwi duo contended with a turbo-related technical issue on all nine stages of the event’s longest day. The lack of power was particularly frustrating on the iconic Panzaplatte with its hundreds of junctions and the relative lack of acceleration available to power them away from each junction. Despite losing the best part of a minute and a half, they persevered to complete all nine stages and reach Saturday’s finish in ninth place overall.
With the Hyundai i20 WRC back to full power for Sunday’s final four stages, Paddon concentrated on gathering as much information as he could about the different skills needed to drive fast on tarmac.
“We have used today’s [Sunday’s] stages to build a bit more confidence and the set-up of the car definitely feels better than when we started, which is positive.
“Tarmac requires a different mind-set and different driving style,” Paddon says. “The grip levels are a lot higher and you’ve got to be very smooth with the inputs into the throttle, steering and brakes. Also the speeds are a lot higher as well so it’s a lot harder to drive faster while being smoother. You don’t want to be going sideways and you really need to be balancing the car on throttle and brake, and sometimes even coasting.
“On gravel, you’ve always got attitude in the car; the car’s moving, you’re playing with the throttle and brake to balance the car whereas on tarmac, it’s either the throttle or the brake and if it’s not either, it’s nothing, you’re coasting. So that’s a little bit different, a little bit strange sometimes but it’s something that we need to be competitive with.”
Wrapping up what was his third run at Rally Germany, the tarmac WRC event with which he has the most experience albeit not much compared to his team-mates or WRC competitors, Paddon says: “It’s definitely been tough for us this weekend. We knew coming into the rally that we’d have to lower our expectations a bit because we still have a lot to learn on tarmac. We’ve been close to our team-mates, we’ve had some good splits, some good stages, at times a little bit inconsistent and we know we have a lot to work on. So all in all, it’s been an important weekend and one that will ultimately be beneficial.”
Of the German event, Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “We have achieved what we set out to accomplish in Rallye Deutschland so I’m very satisfied with this result. The drivers have performed well and truly worked as a team to secure a four-car finish with two cars inside the top-five. We have moved back into second place in the Championship and we must now build on this momentum to consolidate that in the next rounds. Dani and Thierry have both been on competitive form, as we knew they would be, but have shown a sensible approach to the rally to get both cars home in the top-five. For Hayden and Kevin [Abbring in the fourth Hyundai i20 WRC], it has been a weekend of learning. We have also had to deal with some small technical issues but overall it has been a useful weekend for them both, and I commend their professionalism. It has been another enjoyable home event for our team and although we have not been able to fight for a podium, we were actually not too far off at the end. We will continue to push ourselves to close the gap to the frontrunners.”
This result seems Paddon drop one place to tenth in the WRC drivers’ championship standings as Hyundai team-mate Dani Sordo moves up into ninth position.
Paddon says: “Now we turn our focus to Rally Australia. We’ve been looking forward to this one for a long time. We have a lot of work to do over the next two weeks to ensure we’re as well prepared as we can be. We’ll aim to put things right for this event and try and see if we can get on the podium.”
Paddon returns to New Zealand briefly before heading to Australia for the 10-13 September ninth round of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship.
Overall Final Classification
1 – S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:35:49.5
2 – J.M Latvala / M. Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +23.0
3 – A. Mikkelsen / O. Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +1:56.6
4 – D. Sordo / M. Martí (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:09.3
5 – T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:33.8
6 – E. Evans / D. Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:52.1
7 – M. Østberg / J. Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +3:12.5
8 – O. Tanak / R. Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:26.6
9 – H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +4:46.8
10 – S. Lefebvre / S. Prévot (Citroën DS3 WRC) +4:54.5
11 – K. Abbring / S. Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) +9:31.4
2015 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
S. Ogier 207 points / J.M. Latvala 114 / A. Mikkelsen 98 / M. Østberg 90 / T. Neuville 80 / E. Evans 61 / K. Meeke 56 / O. Tanak 54 / D. Sordo 52 / H. Paddon 46 / M. Prokop 33 / K. Al Qassimi 9 / Y. Protasov 8 / J. Hänninen 8 / S. Loeb 6 / N. Al-Attyiah 6 / A. Al-Kuwari 6 / R. Kubica 6 / D. Dominguez 4 / P. Andreucci 4 / E. Lappi 4 / N. Fuchs 2 / G. Saba 2 / J. Kopecky 2 / P. Tidemand 2 / J. Ketomaa 1 / F. Villagra 1 / L. Bertelli 1 / S. Lefebvre 1
2015 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
Volkswagen Motorsport 300 points / Hyundai Motorsport 161 / Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 148 / M-Sport World Rally Team 138 / Volkswagen Motorsport II 64 / Hyundai Motorsport N 45 / Jipocar Czech National Team 43 / FWRT SRL 9
All results remain subject to official FIA confirmation.