Paddon: ‘A win would be special'

It is 12 months since Hayden Paddon’s last World Rally Car appearance, but the Kiwi returns for next week’s Kennards Hire Rally Australia (14 - 17 November). He makes his debut aboard a Ford Fiesta WRC and tells wrc.com what he expects from the nearest thing to a home round.

Q. Does it feel like a home round?
A. It’s been a sort of adopted home rally. It’s still a three-hour flight from home, so that’s like going from Finland to Spain. A lot of people think this is my home rally, but you wouldn’t get Spaniards calling Finland their home event!

Q. You’ve gone well in Australia before…
A: I’ve always enjoyed it. Some of the stages on Saturday are similar to the ones at home in New Zealand, but we don’t have anything like Friday and Sunday.

Q: In 2015, you were fifth, the following year fourth, then third and second last year. What’s coming next week?
A: A win would be pretty special and that’s the progression from fifth, fourth, third and second, but I’ve been out of the car for a year. You know every time I get into a rally car I give it my best shot and that’s what I’ll do next week.

I’m going there to enjoy myself and do the best rally I can. I’m well aware this could be my last rally and my last chance to drive one of these cars, so I want to have fun and enjoy it.

Q: Are you just saying that to try to take away some pressure? You know a good result would really help in what’s a fairly fluid driver market right now…
A: There’s no point me putting pressure on myself. Right now I have nothing on the table for next year. I know what I’m capable of and I’ll back myself every time and if that’s good enough to get me something then great. But like I’ve said before, I’m not going to sit in a corner and cry about this. I’m going to get out there and do the absolute best job I can.

Paddon drove a Fiesta R5 in Britain last month

Q: What’s the approach to Australia?
A: I’ve been out of these cars for 12 months and that’s a long time. I’ve done a lot of driving this year, but I haven’t done a lot of rallies and these other guys are in the cars all the time. Like I said, I’ll do my own thing.

The key is Friday morning, I need to come out pretty quickly and use the road position. I can’t really ease myself in. It’s always the same in Australia. If you’re not on it through Friday and you’re up the front on Saturday then your rally is pretty much finished. I need to be on the front foot rather than the back foot on Friday.

Q: How was the test?
I did a day in Spain in October and drove for 180km. Immediately, it felt like pulling a glove over my hand, it felt really comfortable straight away. I loved the car, it was so predictable and so nice. Driving the R5 car in GB was good, but that took a little bit of adapting to get the style, whereas this was just exactly what I wanted to do and the way I wanted to drive. Everybody at M-Sport has been really good and done everything they can to put me in the best position possible for Australia. They’re a great team to work with.

Head to WRC+ to watch All Live from Kennards Hire Rally Australia, including every stage broadcast live, breaking service park news and expert studio analysis.

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