New Zealand’s leading rally drivers Hayden Paddon and John Kennard didn’t let a power steering issue stop them from finishing Neste Oil Rally Finland, holding on for a solid eighth place in their third FIA World Rally Championship event with Hyundai Motorsport.
The popular Kiwi pair enjoyed their most competitive rally to date in the #20 Hyundai i20 WRC at Rally Finland, with two fourth-fastest stage times on Friday morning and they held a strong sixth place overall after Saturday’s ten stages. Unfortunately, power steering problems on Sunday prevented them from maintaining their excellent run of form and they dropped back to a career best-equalling eighth place by the end of the 26-stage rally.
Speaking from the Jyvaskyla service park on Sunday afternoon, Paddon said: “Certainly it’s not the way we wanted to end the rally with power steering failure today for all three stages which meant we lost a lot of time and dropped back down to eighth. Precisely what you don’t need when tackling the fast stages in Finland – I certainly felt it in my arms at the end of SS25! We knew we were going to lose places in the battle for sixth place but we weren’t going to throw anything away. We took no risks and just brought the car home.
“But all in all it’s been a very positive weekend. We had two good days of rallying on Friday and Saturday, showed some good speed and were able to match our team-mates throughout the rally which is a pleasant surprise. Certainly, it’s a very positive weekend moving forward.”
Each world rally event is another learning process for Paddon and the Hyundai Motorsport team, which is contesting the World Rally Championship for the first time this season. Paddon and Kennard’s determination to finish adds to the data the team is able to collect from their Hyundai i20 WRC car and that of team-mates Finns Juho Hänninen and Tomi Tuominen in the #8 Hyundai i20 WRC who finished strongly to secure their second consecutive sixth place finish in this year’s WRC.
Paddon added: “I’ve developed a lot as a driver this weekend and learnt a lot about the car. I have felt totally comfortable in the Hyundai i20 WRC and without a doubt it has been our best rally so far – even with today’s issues. Our confidence has grown all weekend and I was pleased to have been in the top six; we have shown what we are capable of, but there is much more still to work on and improve. It’s looking good for the upcoming rallies, particularly Rally Australia in September which I’m really looking forward to.”
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “We’ve had a mixed final day in Finland. Looking at today’s three stages, it was pleasing to see Juho on the pace and able to set some fast times, particularly in SS25. Following his problems on Friday morning, he has really settled into a good rhythm and has fought hard to make his way into the top six.
“It was equally a shame that Hayden experienced some power steering issues this morning which stopped him from defending his own sixth place. He has driven a mature rally, very professional and committed. We are happy with the progression he has made since joining us in Sardinia and look forward to him returning for Rally Australia. The weekend as a whole has had some positives and we must take some encouragement from the progress we have made both operationally and on the technical side of the car.”
The next event for Paddon and Kennard is Rally Australia, running 10 to 12 September, while the team heads to Rallye Deutschland later this month with the team’s test driver Frenchman Bryan Bouffier piloting the #20 Hyundai i20 WRC for his first competitive event with the team. Paddon and Kennard return to Europe after the Australian event with two events in October – France and Spain – before wrapping up the 2014 season at Wales Rally GB in November.
Paddon and the HPRG team appreciates the support of their exclusive partners VINZ New Zealand, PlaceMakers and Pak n’ Save along with associate support from Z Energy, Hyundai New Zealand, Scott Sports and New Balance.
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Kate Gordon-Smith, media manager, HPRG Ltd
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