Paddon reflects on what could have been

Hayden Paddon competes in the opening round of the European Rally Championship in Hungary...
Hayden Paddon competes in the opening round of the European Rally Championship in Hungary yesterday. PHOTO: HAYDEN PADDON FACEBOOK
Hayden Paddon had to settle for a hard-fought fourth at Rally Hungary yesterday.

Paddon and co-driver John Kennard finished 44sec behind the winner, Romanian Simone Tempestini, in the opening round of the European Rally Championship.

The Kiwi pair faced a couple of tough days on the heavily travelled roads of Hungary, where five different drivers headed the leaderboard across the weekend.

The defending ERC champions were firmly in the top four all weekend in their BRC Racing-run Hyundai i20 Rally 2 car and climbed to second place by special stage 12, but an unfortunate puncture on the last stage dropped them back to fourth place by the finish.

“It was a weekend of what could have been", Paddon said.

“To come away with fourth obviously gives us some good points to start our championship challenge, but we were hoping for more, especially going into the last stage when we were holding second place."

It was a test of attrition over the two days, highlighted by championship contenders Martin Sesks and Mikko Heikella both striking problems on day two.

A conservative approach gave Paddon, who missed his home Otago Rally to compete in Hungary, the best opportunity for a podium.

“Overall, it was a pretty rough, hot and demanding rally, particularly for the tyre wear, and we were struggling to keep enough tyres to last the whole rally.

"Going into the last loop on Sunday, we were getting a bit tight on keeping new tyres available, but we were managing tyre wear the best we could.

"Through other people’s problems, we stayed consistent and were able to get up to second. At that point, the aim was to simply try to look after that position and protect it in the last stage.

“Our main championship rivals all struck problems, and there are seven more rallies to go, so we have to think about that. The next round is only three weeks away, so we’ve just got to stay positive and try and redeem ourselves there."

The next ERC round is the Rally Islas Canarias on May 3-5, after which Paddon will return to New Zealand for the South Canterbury Rally, where he will have Canterbury youngster Jared Hudson as his co-driver.

— Staff reporter