Hayden Paddon: Wales Rally GB
Well what a year it has been, which has now come to an end after a challenging Wales Rally GB. While another top 5 finish meets our pre-event goals, the way in which we achieved it was not what I had in mind, as I struggled for confidence in the changeable slippery conditions.
The rally started on Friday with some classic Wales Rally GB stages. While the weather was relatively settled to begin with, as the weekend progressed the rain, wind and subsequent storm worsened. Its amazing to think of all the marshals and spectators who braved the appalling weather conditions both during the day and at the Saturday night stages to help make the rally possible.
After our recent form and speed on gravel rallies we were targeting to build on that here and challenge in the top 5. However, right from the outset I struggled to adjust to the conditions. While what we saw out the window looked slippery, there was generally a lot more grip than you thought, which mentally I was not adjusting too. To make things more difficult when you did try to adjust, 1 in 10 corners were like ice (which you could not always visibly pick) making it difficult to build the confidence. Our speed wasn’t where I wanted it to be, but as the weekend progressed our confidence grew and more regularly setting top 5 times on each stage by rally end. Gearbox troubles on both Friday and Saturday mornings cost us time, but realistically at the end of the rally it only cost us 1 position.
This rally is also so crucial for road position, as the road becomes more muddy and slippery with every car. It’s to the point when we are 8th on the road, you have to ignore the times of the cars at the front and concentrate on the competition directly around us, as the handicap is too much to overcome. However, I’m not complaining, as generally this year on gravel rallies we have had the advantage – so is nice to share these things around :-)
With Dani finishing 9 seconds ahead of us in 4th and us 5th, it was a good haul of points for the team. However, it was not enough to overcome Citroen for 2nd in the manufacturers title. Nevertheless it has been a great year for the team with more podiums and stage wins than before. I cannot thank the team enough for all the work they have done and giving me a great car to drive every time. It is really an honor to drive for what I believe is the best team in the world. Every single team member is as passionate and dedicated to winning as each other and a special shout out to my engineer Rui and number 1 mechanic Hannu!
On a personal front, to finish in the top 5 six times and 1 podium is more than we could have hoped for at the start of the season. With our podium coming earlier in the year in Sardegna, it maybe raised everyone’s expectations to produce a similar result again. While the aim was to do that and I am a little disappointed we didn’t, we showed plenty of potential and are getting closer to the front. Next year the aim will not only be for a first rally victory, but also to convert all these top 5’s into podiums.
It is also truly humbling how much support we have received this year and not just from NZ, but all around the world. But your support and late nights in NZ following us means a lot! A huge thanks to John and Katie, who are two massive parts to this puzzle, they do an incredible/faultless job both in and away from the rallies.
Now the work begins for 2016. The team has a busy time ahead developing the new car, which is looking very exciting. I also personally have a lot of areas that I want to improve and work on over the off-season, to come back next year faster and smarter than ever. If your standing still in this game you might as well be going backwards – so it’s about developing new ideas and pushing the envelope. However the off-season is not long, with only 8 weeks until the season opener in Monte Carlo. Between now and then we head back to NZ for 8 days for PR commitments, then back to Europe for 3 weeks of winter testing. Then it will be nice to have a few days off over the summer Xmas break in NZ.
A huge thanks to our personal partners Hyundai New Zealand, PlaceMakers, Pakn'Save, New Balance and Scott Sports.