Kiwi rally star Hayden Paddon takes on a new challenge this weekend as he makes his debut in the new European rallycross series, TitansRX Europe.
The new FIA-affiliated series kicks off at the Circuit d’Essay in France, about two hours west of Paris, with a full grid of 12 drivers competing in identical PanteraRX6 cars.
It’s the first time Paddon has ever competed in rallycross and the first time he’s raced side-by-side with other drivers in his life so it’s an entirely new experience that he’s really looking forward to. He’s not underestimating the learning he has ahead of him, especially with many experienced and competitive rallycross drivers in the field such as Kevin and Tommy Hansen. Fellow WRC driver Craig Breen, from Ireland, is also lining up.
“I’m sure it will be a lot of fun,” says Paddon, fresh from winning his home rally, the Rally of South Canterbury, on 22 June. “It’s a very competitive field so it will be tough, but I think my naturally competitive nature will take over to try and be near the front. I’m hoping it’s something I can learn and pick up on quickly in the intensity of competition. But essentially, I’m going in with zero expectations and just see how it pans out – of course I will be driving as hard and fast as I can.”
Paddon says, unusually, he’s been doing nothing special to prepare for his rallycross debut. “I’ve been focusing on our New Zealand events and Paddon Rallysport business in recent weeks which have been very busy. I never stop my own personal training to keep developing and evolving as the best driver I can be, but nothing specific for rallycross. I’m sure, after this weekend, I will know a lot more about this exciting form of motorsport.”
Paddon joined other drivers at a test at Fuglau in Austria in early May. “The car was a lot of fun to drive and also surprisingly easy. With 550bhp at the foot and quite a light car, it’s agile and predictable. It will be interesting racing five other cars at the same time in the short rallycross races.”
Paddon’s PanteraRX6 car will sport a Hyundai body kit, in keeping with Paddon’s own links to the Korean brand.
The double-header weekend features two race days, with a race winner crowned at the end of each day, and drivers earning points towards the series winner title after six events and 12 race days. Each race day features three qualifying sessions, where the highest points are awarded for the final race position, as well as some extra points for the fastest overall time. This encourages drivers to overtake if they want more points and reduces the influence of track and weather conditions. As in classic rallycross, the top twelve drivers compete in the semi-finals and the top six face off in the final. Qualifying sessions have five laps, Semi-finals have six laps and Finals have seven laps. The joker lap now becomes a penalty lap, and screens on track will tell drivers if they need to take a penalty lap.
Paddon is scheduled to compete in all six TitansRX Europe rounds. “Initially I was invited to make a guest appearance in the series, but after our WRC discussions fell through last minute, I had more availability so asked if was possible to do more rounds. It’s going to be great to be competing in Europe again after our recent successes at home in New Zealand.”