19 May 10
Pirelli Star Driver Hayden Paddon wheeled out his own Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX for the last round of the Production Car World Rally Championship and promptly dominated proceedings from Friday lunchtime. Next week he’s back with the PSD crew on the Rally of Portugal.
Shorn of the need to score Production Car WRC points on the Algarve, the Faro round of the series does not count for the P-WRC series, Paddon acknowledges his first trip to Portugal will be tougher than his victorious return to the land of the long white cloud, where he has been competing since he was 13.
The 23-year-old competed in Europe for the first time on last month’s Rally of Turkey, where he made his debut with the Pirelli Star Driver team.
“I’ve got to be realistic going to Portugal,” said Paddon. “I know there’s going to be big competition from the other Group N drivers there and I have no experience of the roads. Having said that, Rally New Zealand was the perfect lead into Portugal. Going there off the back of the Production Car win is great news for me. Obviously we’re going to be driving the Lancer Evolution X again in Portugal and that takes a little time to get used to after our car, but it’s a fantastic rally car.
“My priority is to get to the finish in Portugal without using SupeRally. I retired from the first day in Turkey and missed a lot of kilometres later that day, I don’t want to do that again. I felt more and more comfortable with the car on Saturday and Sunday in Turkey and now’s the chance to take that forward again.”
Despite never having contested the rally before, Paddon admits news of the atmosphere of the Portuguese round of the World Rally Championship has reached his Geraldine home on New Zealand’s South Island. “This is a special rally,” said Paddon. “I’ve seen the television footage and it looks incredible - so do the roads!”
Paddon has tipped his fellow PSD runner Ott Tanak to run well in Portugal. The Estonian contested the event last season and set competitive P-WRC times on his debut in the world series. Tanak was the fastest of the PSD runners in Turkey before crashing heavily on the final morning, leaving Paddon as the highest classified PSD finisher on the Istanbul-based event.
San Marino’s Alex Raschi was second fastest. He too retired from the opening day after slipping off the road. Nick Georgiou’s Lancer was unmarked, but he had suffered a power steering problem on day one and ended the rally third of the five PSDs. Peter Horsey arrives in Portugal with the least seat time after his Lancer caught fire and burned out on the second stage.
As well as preparing the FIA’s young driver cars, Ralliart Italia also runs the Lancer Evolution X of reigning Production Car World Rally Champion Armindo Araujo. The Portuguese won at home last season and will be looking to repeat his top score in Group N next week.
Araujo and the Pirelli Star Drivers will all attend the Porto roadshow on Sunday 23 May as a precursor to the sixth round of the WRC.