New Zealand rally driver Hayden Paddon finished an exceptionally-strong second place in the production class of the challenging all-tarmac World Rally Championship event, Rallye Deutschland, which ran from 20 to 23 August.

The result delighted the 23-year-old from Geraldine who was quick to gain confidence in his first-ever all-tarmac event despite facing the notorious challenges of the tricky, ever-changing tarmac roads for which the German WRC event is renowned.

With John Kennard in the co-driver's seat, Paddon's self-assured performance saw him win six of the event's 18 stages against fellow FIA Production World Rally Championship competitors and finish 19th overall. The 18 points Paddon earned for the production category's second place keeps him in third place in the overall PWRC standings, closing on second-place holder Patrik Flodin, from Sweden.

Rally commentators described Paddon's performance as "exceptional", with the two-time New Zealand rally champion comfortably the fastest and most consistent of the five Pirelli Star Drivers contesting the event.

Paddon is extremely happy with his German result, which keeps him firmly in the race for this year's PWRC title.

"Leading into the event, we were unsure what our pace would be, as this was our first tarmac rally. But after spending the first day learning the feeling in the car, my confidence in the amount of grip on offer came very quickly," Paddon said.

"The result has completely exceeded my expectations. We remain in third in the championship, but have closed in on second-placed Patrik Flodin, who was third here this weekend. However, we still have an extra nominated PWRC round up our sleeve while the two drivers ahead of us – Armindo Araujo and Flodin – have already done four of their six nominated events. When we head to Rally Japan in just three weeks' time, for our fourth PWRC round with our own Team Green car, we'll be aiming for maximum points."

Portuguese driver Armindo Araujo won the PWRC class in Germany and continues to hold the PWRC series lead with 83 points. Flodin has 65 points with Paddon on 58 points. A class win in Japan, and its 25 points, would put Paddon in a very strong championship position, although he must compete against Flodin and former PWRC champion Toshi Arai. Arai, who holds fourth place in the PWRC standings, will have the advantage of his home event while Paddon will again be contesting another new rally.

Paddon's success in Germany was helped by commencing the event with one of the Pirelli Star Driver test days on the Monday. Paddon made the most of the chance for a full-speed test on tarmac for the first time through a short stretch of tight hairpin turns on a vineyard road. Paddon said: "The biggest thing we found was the difference in performance between the hard and soft compound tyres. For WRC tarmac events you can use both two compound Pirellis, but you're only allocated 16 soft tyres, so you have to choose where you do and don't use them, even if it is wet everywhere. On the damp road today the soft compound tyres were two seconds per kilometre faster than the hard ones, so tyre choice is absolutely crucial!"

The following two days of reconnaissance highlighted just how tricky, tight and narrow the event's roads are. "They are also very undulating, which is very hard on the brakes."

Paddon and Kennard also got their first run through the famous Arena Panzerplatte stage, the longest WRC stage at 48 km in length. "This stage is something special; a Mickey Mouse affair through an army test area, with 98 junctions, broken tarmac, gravel, concrete and smooth tarmac. With the road ducking and darting at different junctions, it could be very easy to overshoot a junction."

Day one saw Paddon and Kennard gain confidence and speed with every stage to finish the day 21st overall, second in the production class and the leading Pirelli Star Driver. He was also ahead of Ott Tanak, who has been his toughest Pirelli Star Driver competition to date. Tanak then went out with a broken steering arm and had to restart under SupeRally regulations.

Day two saw Paddon score another PWRC stage win on the first run through the Panzerplatte stage and he arrived at the lunchtime service having narrowed the gap to PWRC leader Araujo from 32 seconds to 15 seconds. "We went with the hard compound tyre in the afternoon as road temperatures were reaching 40 degrees. Some of our competition ran the soft tyre and took time out of us on the shorter first stage of the loop, but we recovered it all in the next two stages, winning them both."

Paddon added that as he began to push harder he needed to make chassis adjustments to his Ralliart Italy-prepared Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X to counter under-steer. "Prior to the event I didn't change the car a lot, as it was doing everything that I wanted, but now, once you start braking later and carrying more corner speed, the chassis is more vital to get that last little bit. So all this fine-tuning is a good learning curve."

Day three started with Paddon trailing Araujo by 23.8 seconds. "The plan was to push on the first stage and see if we could make any inroads. It wasn't a perfect stage for us, but we did take 1.8 seconds from the lead, then we dead-heated on the next stage to arrive at service still 22.2 seconds behind with only two stages left. So the final stages were a matter of consolidating, but still keeping the pressure on, in case the leader made any mistakes."

Pirelli Star Driver supervisor Phil Short said he was extremely pleased with Paddon. "He has driven tremendously well throughout the event. And I have to admit I have been quite surprised at the pace he has shown. He came to an event he didn't know and, really, a surface where he’d never competed before and he carried the fight to the reigning Production Car World Rally Champion Armindo Araújo."

Paddon now remains in Europe before heading to their next PWRC event in Japan, which runs from 10 to 12 September. This event isn't one of the scheduled Pirelli Star Driver events, so Paddon uses his own championship-winning Mitsubishi EVO IX in which he won the PWRC class during Rally New Zealand in May this year. Following Japan, Paddon heads back to Europe for the final two Pirelli Star Driver and PWRC rounds of the season, Rally France and Rally Great Britain.

"Our next Pirelli Star Driver round – Rally France – is also on tarmac and now I can approach this with a lot of confidence as tarmac is a surface that I now really enjoy driving on," concludes Paddon.
Get full, exclusive access for only $6.55/month.
  • Full access
  • Exclusive news
  • Store & Tour discounts

Show Your Support


Recent Posts