Many may look at the extraordinary talent of Hayden Paddon and assume that coupled with a modern rally car he has enough to win the Ashley Forest Rallysprint. On paper that is correct, but there are other variables that are also key components in not only winning but also breaking the record of the 1.7km course (55% uphill).
And that is the key. To win you have to aim to break the course record because that’s a motivating factor for your rival competitors.
It’s an iconic event, one that draws many from far and wide to compete against that hill, against their fellow competitors as well as themselves. Paddon is not only competing against others but also against himself, trying to better his last fastest time.
Essentially it is a time trial to find the fastest at the end of the weekend. It’s not just about the fastest run, it is also about the elimination that takes place on Sunday afternoon.
Saturday and Sunday morning are taken up with practice and qualifying runs to find the fastest 32 drivers. Elimination sees this whittle down to 16, then eight, then four until we have the fastest two drivers.
You may be the fastest in the top eight, but as Sloan Cox found out, it is no good if our engine expires.
Paddon found this out in 2018 when his engine expired on the Saturday qualifying runs.
I talked to five key competitors to find out what it takes to win the Ashley Forest Rally Sprint. First there is Hayden Paddon, now a two-time winner and new record holder.
Sloan Cox, who not only won the event in 2017 but more importantly broke the late Kim Austin’s 17 year-old record of 56.57 seconds set in a 4WD Mitsubishi Starion V8 .
Matt Summerfield, who has won the event three times. First in 2014 in the same Hybrid Cordia that Paddon drove to victory in 2011. His second win was the following year in the Subaru WRX STI that he drove this weekend and his third consecutive win in 2016 in the Mitsubishi Mirage.
Trevor Crowe could be described as an old campaigner. Not because of his age (which is true), but because there probably hasn’t been an Ashley Forest Rallysprint without his name on the entry list. He is also a winner. In 1985 he drove his Toyota Starlet V8 circuit car to win in a time of 1:04.69.
Chris Hey has won the Two Wheel Drive title 12 times and keeps coming back for more in his highly modified Toyota MR2.
So the question is, ‘What does it take to win the Ashley Forest Rallysprint?’
Hayden Paddon – 2019 winner in a record time of 52.77 seconds
“I think a bit of consistency and a bit of bravery, especially with the elimination runs you cannot afford any slip-ups. It’s also about finding that fine line of when you go for that record or set your benchmark time because later in the event the road can become too chopped up.
“Of course you are also wanting to get through to the final top two. It’s a matter of balancing not wanting to go too soon and making sure you are consistent through each run.”
Sloan Cox – unfortunately retired after the Top 8 elimination run
“When it comes down to elimination runs it pays to have consistent clean lines on every run. While we are here we are definitely fighting for that record as well. They have to be clean runs and fast, not making mistakes.
“Horsepower is a big key to it and we have the power, but I need to get my lines right. If I do that then power comes into play and I’ll put some good times down”
Matt Summerfield – finished second to Paddon in a time of 56.9 sec
“A number of things. A little bit of luck, a bit of consistency and at the pointy end some bravery. You need plenty of horsepower and the car’s got to be there to do it. To be fair, Sloan and Hayden’s car are leagues ahead but you never know what may happen in this business so we will just keep trucking on.
“By the end of Sunday the road is getting a bit long in the tooth so it’s about making a nice run. It can change between each run so it is a matter of adapting”
Chris Hey, 12 x 2WD title holder – set a new 2WD record of 1:01.73
“I haven’t won yet, but a bit of determination is required. I enjoy playing around and improving things. For me it is mainly about aero for both the up and downhill. Your need quite a bit of power and we have just over 400 (hp).
“I built the car for this event, so other events that I do go to we always have a bit of an advantage.”
Trevor Crowe (who got into the Top 16 – 1:03.72)
“Shear talent and a pretty good car. It’s a combination and there are some really good drivers that can’t win it because they haven’t enough ‘bogie’. It’s a horsepower hill and having that ability to get every corner right every time.
“This is a really good event this weekend as we have two top guys going hard at it for the top placing and a really good field behind them.
“It’s one of those rare events you just got to come back to each year. I think people come back each year having done a little bit to the car thinking I’ll do better than last year. Because it is all over in a minute or a bit less, you have to be trouble free and you have to be right on the edge the whole way. And that what’s brings me back!”
And that’s why it is such an iconic Kiwi event. There is nothing else like it in NZ. It has a unique history and it’s very special future history is being made right now with the involvement of Hayden Paddon.
Many of us who were there on Sunday (and there was a great crowd) witnessed something special in Paddon’s final winning and record breaking run. He will be back because he has always said that his ‘special’ engine (which wasn’t able to be used) has another two seconds in it. Could we witness a breaking of the 50 second mark?