New Zealand rally star Hayden Paddon says a World Rally Championship rival helped he and his Hyundai get off to a winning start in the Rally of Sardinia and go on to finish second overall.
Paddon changed tyres at the last minute on the Friday opening day after talking to Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala, a Volkswagen team driver.
“We were unsure if we should start with the hard compound tyres we already had on the car, or fit the two soft tyres we had in the boot,” said Paddon.
“Following Jari’s advice, we fitted the two soft tyres for the first two stages, which surprisingly we won by a good margin.”
Paddon’s second place was a first for a New Zealand driver in an overseas round of the World Rally Championship. The previous best offshore was Possum Bourne’s fourth place in the 1990 Rally of Australia.
“Going into this rally I was confident that with the preparation and homework we had done, combined with the new paddle gearshift upgrade, that we could make a step up from Portugal,” Paddon said.
“Right from shakedown we felt at one with the car, despite the more technical nature of the stages in Sardinia not normally suiting my driving style.”
Pardon’s worst moment came on the Saturday afternoon when he hit a rock that broke the gearbox mountings in his Hyundai. He said he and co-driver John Kennard felt their rally was over.
“However, after getting to the end of the stage and taking a moment for the emotions to settle, John and I got to work using tie straps and other tools to try and secure things as best as we could,” Paddon said.
“We nursed through the final 42km stage and amazingly held on to second. It goes to show if you don’t give up that anything is possible.
“Sunday’s short final day was a matter of driving very slowly to make sure we brought the car and the result home.”
Paddon said that while he would have liked to keep the pressure on the eventual winner Sebastian Ogier, “I was not prepared to throw away a good result and a first podium.”
The next round of the WRC is in Poland, then Finland and Australia. “Our goal of top five for Poland and Finland remains, however for Australia maybe we can have a crack at competing at the front again,” said Paddon.
• NZ motorsport is in a very good place at the moment. “Earl Bamber, Brendan Hartley, Mitch Evans and Richie Stanaway all did an amazing job at Le Mans,” said Paddon. “Hopefully all this will help to grow our sport and also help to get Rally New Zealand back.”