Hayden Paddon nervous, ready for Rally Italia
Kiwi rally ace Hayden Paddon is admitting to a few nerves ahead of his debut for Hyundai Motorsport in the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship.
The Rally Italia Sardegna will be the first of seven events Paddon and co-driver John Kennard will tackle in their new Hyundai i20.
Paddon said there was only one thing that would settle him properly: "I just want to get going. I will be right after the first stage. It is about getting into the groove and settling into a rhythm."
Paddon has had two passes through each stage on the island, albeit in a standard car during the official reconnaissance.
There were some positives and negatives, he said.
"There are a lot of rocks embedded in the narrow roads.
"It will be unforgiving if you get anything wrong."
Paddon said it would be faster than he expected, which was to his liking. "I like roads that have got speed to them."
Paddon said it will be very important to keep it clean and avoid those rocks.
"Finishing is the main goal but if we could also get some driver points that would be good too."
What is also giving the 27-year-old confidence was the fact the drive is not a one off, like past seasons.
"The team expect me to learn with each rally, it is not all or nothing."
He will complete the "shakedown" overnight.
Paddon is the first Kiwi to secure a professional WRC contract, aftermuch hard work from the talented driver and the New Zealand-based team backing him.
Paddon said he had been readily accepted into the Hyundai team. "The environment is great and the team is very knowledgeable.
"The other drivers are helping me and sharing data and advice on events."
Paddon said that was very helpful in Sardinia as he had not competed there before. "It is really the perfect environment to learn."
Paddon will join Hyundai stalwarts Thierry Neuville of Belgium, who sits seventh in the championship, and Finn Juho Hanninen, who won the Sardinia event in 2010.
The Rally Italia Sardegna is round six of the 13-event FIA World Rally Championship.
It starts with an official opening and super special stage in the south coast town of Cagliari.
Today will see a repeated loop of four stages, while tomorrow's 188.5km comprises just two stages, repeated morning and afternoon including the 59.7km Monte Lerno, the longest test of the WRC season.
The four final stages on Sunday complete the event.
The start order for day one is based on championship order, so Paddon expects to start in around 14th position.
For the second and third days, WRC competitors start in the reverse order to their finishing order the previous day.
- The Timaru Herald