Hayden Paddon eyes Rally of Spain finale
He's out of the championship running but New Zealand rally driver Hayden Paddon is not short of motivation at the season-ending Rally Spain, which starts on Friday.
Paddon's chances of winning the Super 2000 class and claiming a second world title in two years went down the gurgler in France last month, when he crashed into a ditch while on track to take the overall championship lead.
But the 25-year-old South Canterbury driver, who was the the 2011 production class world champion, remains focused on plans for next year.
He hopes to get some drives in the top-tier WRC, so demonstrating his pace and talents to those who make the decisions in the ultra-competitive environment of world rallying is essential this week.
He also wants to win the S2000 category this week and end the topsy-turvy year on a high.
"It has been an incredibly difficult season, certainly one of the most frustrating ones that I've ever had," Paddon said.
"But that's part of the sport and we have learnt a lot.
Apart from Sweden, we have been the fastest SWRC competitor on every rally and we have won more than double the stages of our competitors, so there are definitely some positives to take from our performances.
"A good result in Spain will certainly help us go into next year with a lot of confidence, and we'll be putting much of this season behind us. I'm excited to be back in the car this weekend and also thinking about future opportunities."
Paddon tested his Skoda in Austria with his Baumschlager Rallye and Racing (BRR) team last week, albeit in wet, snowy conditions which should be a far cry from what is presented in Spain. Based in Salou, the Spanish event is run on roads to the west of the coastal city.
The first day is on a challenging mix of gravel and asphalt, followed by two days of asphalt stages and a total of 405.46 kilometres.
"Basically we view the rally as two separate events," Paddon said.
"The gravel section will be good as this is my favoured surface, but the change over to tarmac on Saturday morning will be critical, and requires a seamless adaptation into a smooth, non-aggressive driving style to best tackle. This is where a lot of time could be gained."
Ireland's Craig Breen (93 points) and Sweden's PG Andersson (91) will vie for the S2000 title in Spain. After the event, Paddon returns home to work on competition plans for next year.
- © Fairfax NZ News