Gran backs Paddon all the way to Europe

21:08, Jun 24 2014
GRANDMOTHER'S JOY: Esther Paddon, second from right, gets behind the New Zealand flag and her grandson, Hayden, as he competes in the World Rally Championships in Europe.

Kiwi No 1 rally driver Hayden Paddon is having his first serious attempt at the WRC. His grandmother Esther Paddon has gone to Europe to support him and these are her thoughts:

"There is no doubt being gran to a WRC Rally Driver does gives a certain prestige to retirement. It adds a touch of glamour and excitement to my days but there is a downside.

"It can be a tad hard on the nerves. Excitement and nervous stress are not recommended for good health in the aged - or so they say. Take care, do not overdo things. Stay calm; don't let small things upset you. Too much excitement is not good for the heart!"

"These are a few of the comments made to me by well-meaning friends. However, they don't fully comprehend what it means to have a grandson, who is passionate about rally driving.

"Over the years I have watched my son Chris - who had more fun than success - and now Hayden, race cars as fast as they could over rough, dusty or muddy roads, slipping, sliding and taking corners much too fast for safety and always I was watching or waiting.

"Waiting to make sure they, and if possible their car, came home in one piece. I should be used to the hazards of rallying but I'm not.


"However, it is different now. My fear for Hayden's safety is not my over-riding concern. Now I want him to do well. I want his years of dedicated work to give him the results he would like.

"My fears are centred on the car's performance and his ability to make instantaneous decisions in less than the blink of an eye. A tiny error in judgment on his part can lead to disastrous results.

"Then again a slight malfunction in the car can also mar results.

"There are so many variables over which the driver has little or no control. Yes, I know, as I have been told over the years, it is all part of rallying.

"When Hayden is racing, whether glued to the computer for results or watching the actual race in person my nerves reach fever pitch.

"Watching in person, especially overseas, is far more exciting than [watching] a computer.

"I was at Hayden and John's very first race overseas as a Pirelli team in Turkey. I was their only New Zealand supporter. I well remember that first day. It was a new experience for me being in a foreign country and finding transport to view some of the stages.

"It was quite a task. However, it wasn't my transport troubles which I remember with the utmost clarity. It was my embarrassment. The first time I saw the top drivers come round a hairpin corner at top speed, I disgraced myself.

"The corner was sharp and rugged yet muddy and slippery at the same time and they were driving oh so fast! My knees simply buckled and gave way landing me unceremoniously in a heap on the ground.

"I was completely mortified. While I felt stupid, everyone around me enjoyed my dilemma. No-one spoke English yet that incident gave me acceptance into the rally watcher world.

"I might add by the second day I was hooked. I could see those drivers knew what they were doing. My wobbly knees disappeared as I cheered and waved madly like everyone else.

"This year before I came over here, my son took me aside and said, 'Now Mum, I know you are an enthusiastic supporter and fan of Hayden's so you can shout and wave as much as you like', then added in an undertone, 'but try not to jump up and down. Nobody else does!'

"I have taken his words to heart. In Sardinia he wasn't there so I had a practice run. In Poland I will try to be more circumspect but I am not promising!

"The trouble is my first foray into international rallying was in Turkey. The Turkish people are crazy fanatical rally followers and I had my first lessons from them.

"So what will Poland be like and are the Polish people crazy on rallying? I will soon find out.

"There will be a group of family and Kiwi friends in Poland which will be great and give Hayden the support he needs.

"It is enormous fun watching the top drivers in the world. I am so fortunate that my grandson has given me such exciting things to do in my old age. To have someone you know racing in a rally is pretty fantastic. It will be fun."

The Timaru Herald