When New Zealand’s world champion rally drivers Hayden Paddon and John Kennard line up for Wales Rally GB on 13 September, they’ll be fired up to demonstrate the pace they know they can achieve.
“We will, quite literally, be firing on all four cylinders with the Skoda Fabia S2000 now fixed after the inlet valve failure that stopped us in our tracks at Rally Finland,” says Paddon. “That mechanical failure was a little unlucky as it’s a very rare thing to ever go wrong with these cars.”
Now settling into a new base for the reminder of the season in the United Kingdom city of Northampton, Paddon has been working hard on his personal fitness as he prepares for Wales Rally GB, running 13 to 16 September, and then the final two rounds of the 2012 FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship, France in October and Spain in November.
Paddon and Kennard met up with their new Austria-based team, Baumschlager Rallye & Racing (BRR), over the weekend as they prepared for the first of the official rally activities, reconnaissance on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We haven’t been able to do an independent test before this event due to budget constraints so it’s straight into the rally, but that’s not really an issue,” Paddon says.
“John and I have done this event three times and it’s one that I enjoy. Also BRR has had some good experience of this event and a good base set-up on the Skoda. We made some small changes to the car from Finland from my initial feelings.
“With this year’s Wales Rally GB being run two months earlier than usual, it should be a little drier. The roads are fast forestry and quite similar to some parts of New Zealand. We have existing pace notes for just three of the stages as a lot of the stages are in different configuration or new to us, but we have a general idea of the nature of the stages by studying in-car footage, which is a big help.”
Paddon continues with two key goals for this event. First, demonstrating his outright speed by targeting the two Volkswagen Motorsport competitors, Kevin Abbring and Sébastien Ogier, who drive similar Skoda Fabia S2000s as part of VW’s WRC acclimatisation programme and not part of the Super 2000 championship. Second, Paddon is keen to win a second world championship in two years and placed just six points behind current SWRC leader Per-Gunner Andersson, from Sweden, in the Proton, he’s still in with a strong chance.
“There is still a long way to go in the championship. P-G and UK local Craig Breen, who’s third, are our main rivals and will both be fast here. Maximum points in the championship is the only option to put us in a good position for the final two events.
“However the focus for this rally is to match the pace of Sébastien Ogier. This is our last gravel event of the year, being my favoured surface, and we have yet to show the speed that we want, so this is our last chance.”
There are seven competitors registered for SWRC points and 12 competitors driving S2000-spec cars.
The rally literally covers Wales from north to south. Paddon describes the schedule that co-driver John Kennard will keep them on track to complete.
“After a day and a half of recce, on Wednesday afternoon we head to shakedown, or free practice as it’s called on the rally itinerary, in the Walters Arena complex to the west of capital city Cardiff. On Thursday we head 290 km north to Llandudno – right on the northern coast of Wales – for the ceremonial start in the evening. We overnight there before Friday’s stages get underway with two passes over three testing forest stages between 20 and 30 km each in length. There is only an opportunity for limited service at a remote halt in Newtown at lunchtime, and we end the day at the Cardiff service park.
“On Saturday we head 110 km north from Cardiff to the Crychan, Epynt and Halfway stages located within the Epynt military training ranges, returning to Cardiff for the midday service. In the evening, we deviate east to Newport and a new 3 km stage at Celtic Manor Resort – a former golfing Ryder Cup venue – on which is expected to attract huge numbers of fans.
“Sunday’s route takes us to Swansea, west of Cardiff, for three repeated stages, Port Talbot, Rheola and Walters Arena, with the service about 11:30 am back in Cardiff – that’s also where the official finish takes place at 3:30 pm.”
Around preparing for the UK event, Paddon has been busy with a number of sponsor activities. This week he confirmed growing New Zealand car rental company, GO Rentals, as a new member of the sponsor family investing in the New Zealand World Rally Team. Prior to leaving New Zealand in late August, Paddon also spent time with the technical team from Z Energy.
“I had a great few days with Z Energy, putting their premium fuel, ZX, through its paces and doing some comparisons with industry standard fuels. There were some quite interesting results and a very worthwhile exercise. The data is still be complied, but let’s just say we will be trying some in the rally car in the near future.”
Paddon’s world rally campaign is made possible with the support of PlaceMakers, Giltrap Group, Skoda, Z Energy, ENZED, ATEED, GO Rentals, Cameron Sea and Airfreight, Granger Design, Raiseys, New Balance, Pope Print, Racetech, Chicane Racewear, Endless Brake Pads, 1 Group web design, Brita Safety, Rally Tours, MAK-Corp, EPS International, Saddle Hill Quarries, Monit Rally Computers, Bluebridge Ferries, Stadium Finance, and Ewing Engineering Contractors.
Hayden Paddon RallySport shares news, images and results via the team’s website www.haydenpaddon.com where fans can also subscribe for regular email updates and find links to the team’s Twitter and Facebook pages.