NEW ZEALANDER HAYDEN PADDON INSISTS HIS HYUNDAI TEAM-MATE THIERRY NEUVILLE REMAINS HIS PERFORMANCE BENCHMARK, DESPITE THE KIWI BEATING HIM ON THE LAST THREE WRC ENCOUNTERS.
Paddon had the edge over team-leader Neuville on the rounds in Portugal, Sardinia and Poland, despite running an inferior specification i20 World Rally Car that lacked the latest engine upgrade fitted to the cars of Neuville and Dani Sordo.
But having battled drivers from other teams, most notably double world champion Sébastien Ogier in Sardinia, Paddon is keeping his focus close to home.
“Thierry and Dani both have their moments,” Paddon told wrc.com. “Okay, Dani struggled in Poland, but Thierry was on the pace. Maybe he got caught out with some tyre choices, but I think Thierry is still the benchmark for us. He’s a very good driver – he’s just going through a rough patch.”
The pair will next meet on the stages of Neste Oil Rally Finland (30 July – 2 August), an event Paddon has contested five times before. Last year he finished eighth, while Neuville retired with accident damage.
“I think Thierry will be very fast in Finland, but I enjoy the rally as well,” said Paddon. “The speed is down a little on Poland, but that should be good for us because our car can run out of puff at the top end.”
“Our goal remains top five, but we are just going to continue to do things step by step. I’m not worried about team status, I’ll just get the helmet on, go drive the car and whoever’s the fastest, then so be it.”