Q & A with Hayden Paddon

To mark New Zealand’s return to the FIA World Rally Championship, WRC.com caught up with the country’s top rally driver, Hayden Paddon. This is part one of an exclusive Q&A on WRC.com with the Super 2000 WRC title chaser.

Photo:D.Darrall

How have you prepared for Brother Rally New Zealand and how ready are you? “As we have not done an event in the WRC since Portugal, the gap has not been so ideal. We did do the Otago Classic Rally in a BDA Escort a few weeks ago, which was a lot of fun, but time has been spent working hard on funding. Our Skoda has just arrived to NZ and we will have a small test, the SWRC/PWRC test near Huntly south of Auckland, this Sunday to get some time behind the wheel. We do not have the budget for a lot of testing, so I have been studying a lot of onboard footage from Portugal as we are still trying to find a good balance with the car set-up.”

With no championship leader Craig Breen in New Zealand you’ve got a great chance to move to the top of the standings. What would this mean to you on home soil and how much extra pressure does this put on your shoulders? “Yes strong points here would put us in a good position in the championship, but it does not really add any pressure as we are too early in the season yet. Our only focus for this event will be to win SWRC and get a top 10 overall finish.”

Given your knowledge of the stages do you consider yourself to be the clear favourite or do you expect a close fight with your rivals? “It is nice to being doing an event for a change where I know the roads well, and looking forward to driving a great car on the best rallying roads in the world. There will be a lot of competition, particularly from P-G Andersson, who showed in the APRC round in Whangarei earlier this year that he is quick on these roads.”

Sebastien Ogier has been a regular point-scorer in his S2000 Skoda this season. How much of a target are overall points for you in New Zealand? “It is a blow for us that Ogier is not competing here as it would have been good to challenge him on our home turf. While the SWRC is the main priority, it is also very important that we can challenge Sebastien.”

What would winning the SWRC in New Zealand mean to you and how important would it be in your efforts to raise enough backing to complete the season? “Nothing beats winning at home, especially as we will have a lot of support this year and we have some great local companies such as ENZED, PlaceMakers and Giltrap Group supporting us. A good result here would also help our efforts to raise the remaining funds for 2012.”

It’s winter in New Zealand right now. What kind of weather do you expect on the rally? “The weather will play a part in this rally. At this time of year, we could have three fine days of weather, or if it turns bad, it could be a very wet muddy rally. This could be really interesting as Michelin have nominated the hard compound tyre. Wet conditions for the rally would be good as it would close the gap between the WRC and Super 2000 cars, but either way it will be good.”

A great deal is said about the cambered roads in New Zealand. Briefly, how difficult are the stages and what’s the best way to master them? “Each day of the rally is quite unique. The day one stages have a lot less camber but, if wet, there are also a lot of grip level changes. Day two north of Auckland are the best roads in the world and do have a lot of camber, and often you are jumping between corners. On these roads you cannot afford to get out of the camber, but also straight lines and carrying corner speed with the camber is key. Any sliding you cannot use the full effect of the camber and you loose a lot of speed. But generally they’re really smooth and fast flowing roads that are a joy to drive on.”

We are used to the stages around Raglan taking place on Sunday morning rather than Friday morning. How will this change your approach? “Friday will be the toughest day of the rally. Eight long stages, 200 kilometres of stages and only one remote service in between. If the conditions are unsettled, then tyres will play a big role, but the Whaanga Coast stage has been so pivotal to deciding the outcome of the rally in the past, I don’t think it will be any different despite being on the first day rather than the last. We have a plan for the whole rally though and think a lot of time can be gained on Saturday’s stages, which I know well. I have won the International Rally of Whangarei twice, which uses many of Saturday’s WRC stages.”

Credit: WRC.com/NewZealand WRT

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