Top Kiwi rally drivers Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are still second in the 2012 FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship standings despite issues with their Skoda Fabia S2000 rally car which hampered the first of three days at the Wales Rally GB.
The pair finished the event on a positive note, highlighting their competitive pace by winning four of the final day's six stages. Together with the team from Baumschlager Rallye & Racing (BRR), based in Austria, Paddon and Kennard now face three intensive weeks to prepare for their next event, Rally France, as they strive to complete a trouble-free rally.
Paddon says: "Wales Rally GB has been an eventful and trying rally. Nevertheless there are still plenty of positives to take away and finishing seventh in the SWRC category has given us enough points to stay second in the championship, now tied with Craig Breen who won the category here. Championship leader P-G Andersson has increased his lead slightly with an eight-point advantage over Craig and us."
Of yesterday's action, the 25-year-old from Geraldine says: "Today comprised of six relatively short stages and a chance for us to improve the car. As expected, the smoother roads did suit us better and we were able to set some competitive times, including four fastest stage times in SWRC."
With two events of the 2012 season still to run and 25 points for the winner up for grabs at each event, Paddon is now in a three-way fight for the championship title.
Rallye de France Alsace is an all-asphalt event taking place October 4 to 7 in the Alsace region, seven-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb's home region, in the east of France.
Paddon and Kennard, his co-driver from Blenheim, head to Austria this week to test with the team.
"This coming week we have our first drive of a Super 2000 car on tarmac, as I go to Austria to test with the team ahead of Rally France.
"It has been a very challenging year to date, but it's not from lack of trying. There is a lot of hard work going on in the background and I will go back to the drawing board, break down all the details so that we can learn from it and turn our season around," says the New Zealander known to be his own fiercest critic.
"A win is a must, but in saying that, first and foremost, we also need to concentrate on having a trouble-free rally in France."
Paddon has two New Zealand rally championships to his credit; he won the 2010 Pirelli Star Driver scholarship and then became the first New Zealander to win a world rally championship when he blitzed the opposition to win the 2011 FIA Production World Rally Championship. The same determination, talent and passion to win will see him do his very best to take out the SWRC title in 2012.
Following the French rally, the season wraps up in Spain in November.
- © Fairfax NZ News