Paddon relishing rally more about smarts than speed

Hayden Paddon and co-driver Seb Marshall in their  Hyundai i20 Coupe during Rally Sardinia in...
Hayden Paddon and co-driver Seb Marshall in their Hyundai i20 Coupe during Rally Sardinia in June last year. Photo: Sarah Vessely
New Zealand rally driver Hayden Paddon and co-driver Brit Seb Marshall are feeling fit and strong as they head to the hot, demanding roads of Rally Italia Sardinia this weekend.

The event on the island of Sardinia is renowned for its rugged gravel special stages and the summer heat which impacts drivers and cars. Both Paddon and Marshall have solid experience of Sardinia’s tough conditions, with Paddon competing there for the fifth time — having made his Hyundai Motorsport debut there in 2014 — and Marshall for the fourth.

"It’s a very demanding rally," Paddon said.

"Rough stages and hot weather make it challenging for man and machine. It’s a rally we have had some success at in the past and it rewards the smart rather than outright speed.

"Managing tyres is key, especially as this year we effectively have four less tyres than last year."

Paddon has had two busy weeks since the previous event in Portugal in which he and Marshall ended the rally crashed into a culvert. The impact affected an old injury in Paddon’s back and he has been working with specialists to speed up his recovery.

"I’m feeling good and strong for the rally this weekend and am happy with the progress of recovery."

Paddon is keeping his goals for Sardinia straightforward — to have a clean rally and finish.

"If we can do that, then a good result will be possible. I’m mindful that between Portugal and Sardegna in the past, they have been somewhat bogey events for us over the last two years, so we want to put that right."

This year, more than a third of the 313.46 km of special stages have been revised in some way. Marshall said it was a demanding rally but one which he enjoyed, having scored several stage wins there and led the rally in the past.

"The route on Friday has been changed a bit compared to last year with some familiar stages being extended or revised in places and there’s a new stage entirely to finish Friday’s 122km loop.

"The stages on Saturday and Sunday are largely the same as 2017 so we’ve got good knowledge of what to expect there."

Paddon and Marshall in the NoHyundai i20 WRC car join Hyundai Motorsport team-mates Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul, and Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jaeger at the seventh round of this year’s World Rallyt Championship. 

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