Fans a help as Paddon seeks good end to bad year

Hayden Paddon
Hayden Paddon
Hayden Paddon and co-driver Seb Marshall will draw on the support of Kiwi fans as they aim to wrap up the 2017 World Rally Championship season on a positive note in this week’s Rally Australia.

A three-car Hyundai Motorsport line-up means Paddon will compete in the No4 Hyundai i20 Coupe world rally car, with team-mate Belgian Thierry Neuville aiming to secure second place on the drivers’ table and Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen defending his 2016 Australian victory.

Looking forward to next season, Paddon said there was no definitive information available yet.

"To be honest, there is not much to say. Exactly what the team’s plans are is unclear and there are ongoing discussions between our managements. All I know is that there is now four of us contracted with the same contracts — so it’s difficult."

Paddon said there had been talk of alternating cars and drivers but that was not yet confirmed.

"All I know is we will be staying with Hyundai and whatever opportunities/events we do next year, we will make the most of each one to get things back on track, and back to the level that I know we are capable of."

It has been a tough season for the Kiwi, who has delivered a best finish of second in Poland, a result he would like to emulate down under this week.

"Finishing the rally in Wales in the top eight wasn’t necessarily the result we wanted, but it gave us good mileage in the car, which we hope will translate positively to Australia. All sports people and teams have bad years, and this has simply been a bad year for us for many reasons — and many things out of our control. So will just keep pushing forward," he said.

Bolstering him over the rally, from tomorrow until Sunday, will be the hundreds of fans travelling from New Zealand for the event.

"It is always nice to be heading back to our side of the world. It isn’t quite a home event but it is as close as we can get. The support we receive from the fans is unreal and we want to give them a good show — and something to shout about," he said.

Rally Australia begins in the New South Wales town of Coffs Harbour with familiar roads blended into three new stages on wild forest roads.

"We are not competing on the public roads as much as previous seasons, with a lot more stages in the forest," Paddon said.

It is the sixth time he has contested Rally Australia, with a highest finish of fourth last year, but it is the first time for Marshall.

With around 320km ahead on the rugged, dusty forest and shire roads, Paddon said tyre wear was often very high.

"However, early forecasts are showing that we could expect a bit of rain this year. That could throw a curve ball, as is not something we normally expect here. If it stays dry, we have a really good road position [10th] that we can take advantage of. If it’s wet, it will be like Wales Rally GB again, with slippery and unpredictable conditions."

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