Despite plenty of challenges on and off the road in the past 12 months, Kiwi rally driver Hayden Paddon believes he is now closer to his dream of a fully fledged World Rally Championship drive than at any point of his career.
The 26-year-old from Geraldine admitted his childhood dream “plateaued” in 2012. A series of poor results led to him finishing fifth in the Super 2000 class after he had won the Production World Rally Championship in 2011.
Paddon and co-driver John Kennard are preparing for their second of three WRC2 rallies this season, Rally Germany which begins Thursday night (NZ time), after they finished third in the class at Rally Finland a fortnight ago.
“Last year we plateaued with a series of bad results,” Paddon acknowledged.
“This year we’re back on track, back in the spotlight of the WRC with a good finish under our belts already.”
Despite being able to compete in only part of the WRC2 season because of a lack of funds, Paddon maintained things were looking up.
“Over the next 12 months there will be more teams and there is potential for some musical chairs to go on, so there is added pressure on us to keep the good results coming.
“However you look at it there will still be a shortage of drivers.
“I’m still very confident I will achieve the main goal and I’m feeling positive about the future.”
Paddon said the lack of funds had been a strain, but the podium place in Finland had given him some much-needed confidence.
“[This year] it’s been the biggest challenge financially … It was good to get a result in Finland because it took some pressure off because the last 12 months have been a bit up and down and hopefully we can race a bit freer and show off our speed.
“We got plenty of positive talk from around the driver park [in Finland] but it’s only one result and we need to prove we can back it up and show we can do it on tarmac and show our versatility.
“A big part of what we do is being in the right place at the right time, there are a lot of teams based here so it is important in that regard.”
Any extra WRC appearances would depend on whether he is in a strong position in the championship standings after his last scheduled event Rally Australia in mid-September, Paddon said.