Saturday | 06 Sep 2014

One to watch in Australia: Hayden Paddon

The World Rally Championship heads to Australia for round 10 – a rally that’s as close to home as it gets for New Zealander Hayden Paddon.

This will be the fourth Hyundai team outing this year for the 27-year old, and after impressing at the recent gravel rounds in Poland and Finland, we reckon he could surprise some of the championship regulars again in Coffs Harbour. Here’s why:

Experience counts
Paddon and co-driver John Kennard are able to draw on their previous experience of the country roads and forest tracks of Rally Australia. Coffs Harbour is a venue they have visited twice before; last year in a Skoda Fabia S2000, and in 2011 when they clinched the Production car World Rally Championship title in a Subaru. As well as starting with a decent set of pace notes, Paddon is also feeling increasingly at home in the Hyundai i20. This will be the first event where he will use his own car setup, determined at a pre-event test in France, rather than using the same base settings as Thierry Neuville.

The improving Hyundai i20 WRC
Okay, it’s remarkable 1-2 victory last time out in Germany had a lot to do with the misfortune of others, but there’s no denying that the i20 World Rally Car is getting stronger and quicker with every rally. The ongoing development continues in Australia with chassis tweaks designed to improve reliability.

National pride
If Paddon needed an extra incentive to show us what he’s capable of, the fierce sporting rivalry between his native New Zealand and Australia could be it. This will be the first time that Paddon will go up against Australia’s Chris Atkinson, and the fact that they will both be driving identical i20 world rally cars should make it an unusually level fight.

A road order advantage
If conditions are dry, Australia’s loose and dusty stages make road sweeping a big handicap for those running early in the start order. And with the order for day one based on championship standings, Paddon’s lowly position of 17th could give him a big advantage here. He will start Friday’s stages 11th on the road and should benefit from a cleaner line with more grip. Time made up here will help him keep a decent start position on the following days.

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