Hayden Paddon says he leaves Mexico feeling upbeat and positive for his next World Rally Championship event in Argentina in five weeks’ time despite not achieving the results he’d hoped for in Mexico.
Paddon and co-driver John Kennard contested Rally Mexico for the first time over the past few days (6 to 8 March) – the only crew among 14 WRC competitors who hadn’t done the event previously – and after a series of ups and downs, eventually finished 17th overall.
After a spin on Thursday night’s super special stage, a small error on Friday’s second stage resulted in broken suspension and the end of their day. Re-starting on Saturday in 26th position, the Kiwis were on the back foot, running first on the road in the ‘sweeping’ position, and then were further hampered by brake issues in the morning and overheating issues in the afternoon.
Paddon said: “It was a difficult morning as first on the road, but that was completely as we expected after yesterday. I was pleased to have the chance to re-join under Rally 2 because yesterday’s incident was such a small error which happened to have big consequences on our rally. We had to be patient and accept that things would be tricky. We used Saturday’s stages effectively as a test and to learn more about the nuances of this event. It’s not been easy but it has certainly been valuable.”
Despite the challenges, they ended Saturday in 20th position and took some encouragement from a sixth-equal stage time.
On Sunday’s final three stages, Paddon reported they had a cleaner day, making clear steps forward to improve their feeling in the car on Mexico’s unique stages.
Paddon said: “It’s been an eventful rally for us but I think there are plenty of positive things for us to take away. The car has been good. Coming into Sunday’s final stages, I watched the on-boards from my team-mates last night and I learned a few valuable things about my driving which I can now take forward to Argentina.
“In the long 55 km stage this morning, we saw these improvements with some good spilt times and this is what we will analyse with both the data and on-board footage in the coming weeks to further improve.
“We have gained lots of mileage in the Hyundai 120 WRC car this weekend and built up a good bank of experience in these stages, which was the main target. With most WRC events more of a sprint format, stage familiarity is vital to be able to find those last tenths of a second per kilometre to challenge the frontrunners.
“Despite the outcome of the rally we came away feeling positive and upbeat for Rally Argentina, especially after making further small improvements with my driving technique, as we did in Sweden.
“Now we are fully focused on our next event in Argentina in five weeks’ time. This gap means we have time to head back to New Zealand and work with our partners, while continually stepping up the training and study programmes for future events.”
Paddon and the HPRG team appreciates the support of their exclusive partners, Hyundai New Zealand, PlaceMakers and Pak n’ Save, along with associate support from Z Energy, Scott Sports, New Balance New Zealand and All About Signs Timaru.