Kiwi rally driver Hayden Paddon won’t be holding anything back when he and British co-driver Seb Marshall get their 2018 FIA World Rally Championship season underway on the fast, snow-covered roads of Rally Sweden this week.
Fresh from a very positive test on snow with Hyundai Motorsport, Paddon says the cold Scandinavian weather has delivered exactly the sort of snow conditions he and fellow WRC competitors hope for on the WRC’s only true winter rally.
“This will be my fifth time doing Rally Sweden, but it looks like it will be my first time doing the rally with some really good snow conditions. This means a good ice base to the roads and high snow banks. This all means you can really attack a lot more and generally get away with more, so there will be no holding back in our Hyundai i20 WRC.
“Driving on the snow is so pure, with the car sliding/dancing from snow bank to snow bank, and it just gives you a lot of pleasure.”
Paddon and Marshall are excited to get their 2018 season underway and both have amped up their physical and mental training to ensure they are as well prepared as they can be for the seven WRC events assigned to them by Hyundai Motorsport this season.
“We are not holding back this year,” says the popular Kiwi. “The targets have to be for podiums on each and every rally we do this year. But the competition is so close nowadays that our focus is purely on driving fast and keeping it clean on every single stage. There is no room for error. But the pre-season prep has gone really well – we are in a good place at the moment and we will be leaving nothing on the table during the rally.”
Marshall says it’s always special to compete in Sweden – this will be his third time. “It’s the only full winter rally we do, and it’s especially exciting this year when snow conditions are looking this good! It’s where I made my WRC car debut in 2015 subbing for an injured Dani Sordo, so that adds to the enjoyment.”
Hayden Paddon will be hoping for another Swedish Rally podium finish this weekend. Photos: McKlein
Marshall adds: “The grip from the studded tyres is phenomenal and combined with the big snowbanks, the corner speeds you can carry are often higher than other events given there's a little extra margin for error. Dealing with the cold is always a challenge…with the dry air and cold hands it makes it harder to feel and grip each page of the paper to turn the pace notes.”
Paddon and Hyundai team-mates Thierry Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen prepared for the event with a three-day test in Kall, Sweden where fresh snowfall and sub-zero temperatures made for ideal conditions to prepare for the Swedish event.
“It was really good to be back in the car again,” Paddon says of the test. “I was a little worried beforehand, having not been in the car since Rally Australia that it might take some time to get the feeling again. But immediately it all naturally clicked, and we had a good 200km test. The feeling with the car was good and we are confident with the settings we found.”
Having not contested the first round of this season in Monte Carlo, Paddon will run tenth on the road for Friday’s first leg of the three-day rally.
“Running tenth on the road, it will depend on the weather in the 24 hours leading up to Friday if that will be an advantage or disadvantage, but whatever way it is, we will take it in our stride and have a plan either way that we can adjust to.”
Key facts of Rally Sweden
Date: 15-18 February
Special stages: 19 (314.25 km)
Total distance: 1400.79 km
Service park: Torsby (400 km northwest of Stockholm)
• Thursday evening’s super special at the Karlstad trotting track gets the action underway.
• Six of Friday’s seven stages are run over the border into Norway.
• A highlight of Saturday’s eight-stage schedule is the famous Colin’s Crest jump in the Vargåsen stage; current record 45 m.
• The event concludes on Sunday with three stages, including the potential of bonus point in the power stage.
• A quarter of all stages in 2018 are different to 2017, although some have been used in earlier years.
• The Hyundai WRC cars are fitted with studded Michelin tyres to tackle the frozen stages, which offer some of the fastest roads of the season.
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