Hayden Paddon says he paid the price for a lack of pre-event testing at Rally de Espana, where he made his world rally car debut.
The 26-year old New Zealander is aiming for a full time drive in the WRC, and hoped to showcase his talents to prospective employers in the one-off appearance in a works prepared Ford Fiesta RS.
He went on to finish eighth, but struggled for most of the event to find a comfortable balance with the set-up of the Fiesta RS, which he had tested beforehand only briefly on asphalt and not at all on gravel.
On the opening tarmac section Paddon said: “We’re definitely enjoying it, but obviously not getting as much out of it as we’d have liked to. We’re struggling with a lot of under-steer and can’t carry the corner speed. We’re continually learning about the set-up of the car that works best.”
A switch to gravel on Sunday should have better suited the Kiwi, who recently wrapped up his third New Zealand Rally Championship. Instead he described the day as ‘trying’
“Moving to my favoured surface of gravel, I had high hopes to be competitive. However as we had never driven the car on gravel before it was going to be a tall ask – a fact we found out on the first corner of the first stage” he said.
“The Ford is a fantastic car and really enjoyable. However in gravel spec it felt different to anything I have driven before. The huge suspension travel meant the car was moving around a lot and I found it difficult to build any confidence and have a good feel for the car.”
After the rally Paddon said he had learned a lot, and that his stage times showed his progression. “We improved on tarmac from 1.5 seconds per kilometre to 0.6 seconds per kilometre behind the stage winner and on gravel we improved from 2.6 seconds per kilometre to 1.1 seconds per kilometre. And we know exactly where the time loss is, which comes down to seat time and testing to overcome.”
In terms of the future, Paddon added: “There is still a long way to go and we’re currently unsure what the next step will be. We definitely want to be in a world rally car next year – this experience has taught us that we need more seat time to be competitive, and we’re sure we can be. Now we must continue to work hard, evaluate this event, learn and become stronger from it.”