Kiwi rally stars Hayden Paddon and John Kennard displayed their trademark determination during the second day of Wales Rally GB, setting some front-running times and improving their overall position to 11th.
With six more short stages to complete the final round of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship to be run on Sunday, Paddon says he will continue to push to finish in a points’ scoring position for this year’s final event with Hyundai Motorsport.
“It was a much better day today. The stages have all been new for everyone, so that’s a more level playing field. We’ve certainly been happier with our times today, being among the frontrunners all day and the fastest Hyundai in half the stages, so that’s certainly promising,” said Paddon at the day’s conclusion in the rally’s service park in the Welsh coastal town of Deeside.
“We still have a lot more to come yet as we’re still struggling a lot with the understeer issue from yesterday, although the changes we made certainly improved it. We’re heading in the right direction and it’s all good experience for the team and myself.
“We’re now closing in on tenth position with a gap of just 5.7 seconds to Martin Prokop. We’ve bought back a minute today in the overall standings, so the goal for tomorrow is to get back in the points. All in all, a much improved day and we’re feeling happier.”
Conditions in the north Wales forests were again muddy with highly-variable grip levels and the low autumn sun during the early morning and mid-afternoon stages providing an additional challenge.
A highlight of Saturday’s competition for Paddon was setting the second-equal quickest time for the 19.98 km special stage 12.
“That was good,” said Paddon at the midday service after also setting a couple of sixth quickest stage times during the morning’s five competitive tests. “There are still some little things we’re struggling with – understeer in the fast sections is a little unsettling, so I haven’t quite got the confidence I’d quite like, but the times have been much better and there’s still a lot to work on and learn for this afternoon.”
The four afternoon stages were repeated runs of the morning’s first four stages with the now polished gravel-and-mud road surfaces making conditions extremely slippery.
With two sixth-quickest times and a seventh-quickest, Paddon and Kennard finished the afternoon on a strong note with Hyundai team-mates Thierry Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul in the #7 Hyundai i20 WRC ending Saturday in fifth place overall, and Juho Hänninen and Tomi Tuominen in the #8 Hyundai i20 WRC, having restarted under Rally 2 regulations, holding 40th overall.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “We have already learned a lot on this final event of the year. We made changes on all cars and all the drivers have reported better handling and have set improved stage times. With the slippery stages providing a real test of traction and handling balance we are pleased with the progress we are making on our first visit to Wales Rally GB. Thierry is not far from the podium and is setting competitive times. Hayden has also put in some good performances today. While we’ve had some issues, we are constantly improving as we continue to develop the car.”
Wales Rally GB concludes on Sunday with just 46.12 competitive kilometres split into six special stages. With the running order determined by reversing Saturday’s overall classification, Paddon and Kennard will start fourth on the road, while rally leader Sébastien Ogier starts 14th.
Paddon and the HPRG team appreciates the support of their exclusive partners VINZ, PlaceMakers, Pak n’ Save and Hyundai New Zealand along with associate support from Z Energy, Scott Sports and New Balance.