Hayden Paddon. Photo Getty
It might sound an oxymoron, but the key to driving a
rally car fast is to take it reasonably slowly.
It's a concept New Zealand rally driver Hayden Paddon is
still coming to grips with, although the 25-year-old
continues to progress and hopes next year to ease behind the
steering wheel of a world rally championship car in three or
Paddon is coming to the end of year two of his five-year
plan. In that time he holds the ambition of becoming WRC
world champion - last year he was world production class
champion - and needs to earn a factory drive with one of the
big teams to do it.
For that to happen, he needs to continue to set fast stage
times, win stages and rallies and impress enough people of
influence. He also needs to consistently drive smoothly.
"It's quite a funny feeling," he says.
"Sometimes the stages you think are really good aren't - you
are normally over-driving it - and often the ones that don't
feel so good and feel a little bit slow are the good ones.
From a race driver's perspective, it's quite a hard concept
to grasp, that to drive fast you have almost got to put in
your mind that you have to drive slower, as confusing as that
sounds. It's not something I have fully adapted to yet but I
learn more every rally."
Paddon finishes his season this weekend at the Rally de
Espana. A crash at last month's Rally France, when he was
leading going into the final day, scuppered any chances of
adding a second world title.
It was the latest incident in a frustrating year. He and
co-driver John Kennard have won more than double the number
of stages of any of their rivals in their Skoda Fabia and,
apart from Sweden, the first rally of the series, have been
the fastest Super 2000 world rally championship competitor on
"The speed has been there to win the championship, we just
haven't had things fall our way," he says. "I guess
sometimes, particularly in motorsport, you have to have a
little bit of luck and the technical retirements we had in
Finland and GB were very rare problems to have. It was bad
"We haven't really been able to string together one good,
solid rally but we have been able to show some good speed and
set some good stage times. From that side of things, it's
been encouraging and it certainly hasn't gone unnoticed.
"Some of the teams have been keeping an eye on our times and
making comments in the paddock. There are always people
watching in the background you are never really aware of
until things happen. Things are starting to happen but we
just need to keep putting in the performances."
Like all aspects of motorsport, sponsorship and funding are
Encouragingly, he's secured a special deal with WRC major
players Red Bull, who are sponsoring Paddon and Kennard on a
one-off basis this weekend in Spain. It makes this weekend's
event particularly important, even though Paddon is out of
the running for the championship, and he intends to go "flat
His plan for 2013 isn't entirely mapped out but he hopes to
drive as many as four rallies in a WRC car (probably a
customer one as opposed to a factory car) and then step up to
the WRC proper in 2014.
"The next two to three years are going to be absolutely
crucial to secure a factory seat," he says. "We have to get a
factory seat to win the world championship."
- Michael Brown of APNZ