HAYDEN PADDON’S FIRST PODIUM FOR 12 MONTHS IN POLAND LAST WEEKEND ENDED A NIGHTMARE PERIOD FOR THE KIWI.
Second behind Hyundai i20 team-mate Thierry Neuville at Orlen 74th Rally Poland was his first top three finish since the same event last year, and his best result since his maiden WRC win in Argentina in April 2016.
Paddon admitted the result, which helped Hyundai Motorsport close the gap on leaders M-Sport World Rally Team to 22 points in the manufacturers’ standings, released the pressure on him.
“It has been 12 months since my last podium and that’s a long time. Many, many things have gone wrong for us and this is more a relief than anything,” Paddon told wrc.com.
“This has been the hardest period in my life both professionally and personally. It has been a real battle this year and this releases the valve a little bit.”
Paddon’s lowly road position on Friday disadvantaged him compared to the early starters in the wet and muddy conditions and he felt it would ruin his chances of a strong finish.
“We couldn’t keep in touch. I wasn’t on the limit and wasn’t so comfortable in the conditions. We could have gone quicker but I was 40sec back after Friday morning and thought a good result was done and dusted already, but then things came right for the rest of the rally.
“Once we got in front of Seb (Ogier) and he had his problems, we had a bit of a margin so it was just a matter of consolidating position. We were never going to catch the guys in front on speed,” said Paddon, who won three stages in Saturday’s more equal conditions.
The result marked a maiden WRC podium for new co-driver Seb Marshall and left Paddon optimistic ahead of Neste Rally Finland (27 – 30 July), the season’s fastest event.
“If conditions are favourable for us, I think we can challenge to be on the podium. I can name eight or nine guys who are probably going to be at a very high speed going for the podium and even the win, so I think it’s going to be the most competitive rally of the year,” he added.