Hayden Paddon, the young New Zealand rally driver making a name for himself on the world stage, is set to tackle the tarmac roads of the French round of the World Rally Championship which runs from 1 to 3 October.
Rallye de France has moved from its long-time home on the island of Corsica to a new base in the city of Strasbourg in the Alscae region near the German border. This means that Paddon and co-driver John Kennard are not alone in contesting the three days of rally stages for the first time. Every single competitor, from six-time WRC champion Sébastien Loeb down through the field, faces their first-ever run on the event’s unique combination of 353 km of competitive stages.
“The fact everyone’s doing this event for the first time is a real leveller,” says the Geraldine-based Paddon as he prepares to fly back to Europe.
The 23-year-old is not fazed by facing yet another new international rally which takes the field through mountainous, mixed seal roads.
“We have always gone well on new events as we tend to write good pace notes on our first visit to a rally,” says the two-time New Zealand rally champion.
“We’ll look to do the same in France. This event is now very close to where the German WRC rally was run – basically opposite sides of the border. We have heard that there are many surface changes on the tarmac roads. This could make things difficult, particularly if it rains and it is autumn there, so there’s definitely a possibility of rain.”
Paddon is in a three-way battle for the final PWRC podium positions with two other quick drivers, defending PWRC champion Armindo Araújo, from Portugal, and hard-charging Patrik Flodin, from Sweden. Flodin took the PWRC series lead at the last round in Japan while Paddon, holding third, moved closer to Araújo’s second place.
Paddon is gunning for the PWRC class win in France. “We are in a position in the championship where we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. We have to target a good result on this event – John and I will be throwing everything and the kitchen sink at this rally!”
The French event is one of the six Pirelli Star Driver events Paddon contests this year, as well as being a round of the PWRC. This mean he drives the Ralliart Italy-prepared Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X rally car on this event, compared to his own Team Green EVO IX he drove in Japan just two weeks ago.
“The thing with the Production series is that each competitor nominates six of nine WRC events they want to contest. So Patrik isn’t competing in France, but Armindo is. This gives us a chance to take the lead in the championship but, in saying that, Armindo is very fast and he also won the PWRC class in Germany. So, realistically, we have our work cut out for us, but if we can pick up where we left off in Germany – where we won six of the 18 special stages and learnt alot – I feel we have a chance. The championship points’ structure certainly rewards wins and, although we have consistently been on the podium, we need a win to have a chance of taking the championship lead.”
Between his international commitments, Paddon has been working hard to try and confirm plans to drive in next year’s World Rally Championship when his Pirelli Star Driver scholarship will be finished.
“I’m staying in the United Kingdom for the five weeks between Rally France and Rally Great Britain, and hope to attend the Intercontinental Rally Challenge event in Scotland and WRC Rally Spain as a spectator. These are great opportunities to meet and talk with more people, as we’re working really hard to put together a package to stay in the WRC in 2011.”
Rally Great Britain is Paddon’s last event of the season where the young Kiwi will finish his first-ever attempt at the FIA Production World Rally Championship in one of the top-three slots. The question is which podium step will he attain.
The Paddon RallySport team acknowledges the support of Pirelli, Ralliart Italy, EDL Fasteners, Rallytours, Castrol, Contiki Tours, Paddon, MCA Suspension, Vicarage Lane Wines, Radio Hauraki, Radio Sport, Northend Ford, In-Tune Automotive, All About Signs, Total Automotive, Resene, FMG, Raiseys Nutrition, Endless, 1Group, FMG, Steelplus, Andar the Front Store, Alpinestars, Reaction Racing, Pope Print, House of Travel Papakura, Cameron Air & Seafreight and Bluebridge Ferries.
2010 FIA Production World Rally Championship for Drivers (prior to Rally France)
1, Patrik Flodin (SWE) Subaru, 90 pts
2, Armindo Araújo (PRT) Mitsubishi, 83 pts
3, Hayden Paddon (NZL) Mitsubishi, 76 pts
4, Gianluca Linari (ITA) Subaru, 41 pts
5, Toshi Arai (JPN) Subaru, 38 pts
Source: Team Release