Two purposes for Hayden Paddon as Kiwi WRC driver locks in Italian event
Hayden Paddon's trip to the north-western coast of Italy later this month serves two purposes.
As indicated by soon-to-be new co-driver Seb Marshall when the pair confirmed their impending partnership on Wednesday, it was announced on Thursday the Kiwi rally driver would be taking part in Rallye Sanremo.
It will be the first competitive outing together for Paddon and Marshall, who will permanently take over from long-time Paddon co-pilot John Kennard in August at Rally Germany, the 10th event of 13 on this year's World Championship calendar.
Paddon said it was a "chance to develop our partnership with an eye on the future" but added another factor played a big part in his decision to take part.
The second round of the premier national championship in Italy, Rallye Sanremo is raced on the same kind of tight, twisty, tarmac roads drivers will be faced with at the next round of the WRC season on the French island of Corsica early next month.
Having honed his skills on the gravel roads of New Zealand, closing the gap to several of his main rivals on tarmac is a key focus for Paddon, who said he was looking forward to his debut at the Sanremo event.
"Competing the week before the Tour de Corse should be the perfect warm-up for that event.
"It will be a good opportunity to get some more mileage on tarmac on very twisty and demanding roads that are similar to Corsica. The Italian drivers who know the stages will be very fast, while it'll be our first time there so we're not focusing on results, but instead concentrating on development and improvement for the future.
"The whole purpose of the rally is just to get more time behind the wheel and to get more comfortable on tarmac."
Instead of the Hyundai i20 WRC he was used to, Paddon would be behind the wheel of the New Generation R5 in Italy.
The R5 is a car, however, Marshall is very familiar with having competed in it several times last year and been part of the development phase of the project.
It will also be far from the first time Paddon and his new co-driver have worked with each other, given 27-year-old Marshall has been part of the Hyundai set-up since 2015 alongside Dutch driver Kevin Abbring.
Rallye Sanremo runs from March 30 to April 1, with the fourth round of the WRC following at Tour de Corse from April 6-9.