Hayden Paddon: Wales Rally GB
Another rally and another close run for the podium, but eventually having to settle for 4th. While the result is nothing to turn my nose up at, naturally when your close to the podium, there will always be a little frustration. But we will use that as fuel for the next round to go even faster!
This is a rally that has never played to my strengths. After seeing the roads in recce, every year we love the look of the stages – fast, flowing and almost NZ like in places. But the deal breaker is once you start the rally and get a feel for the grip, it feels like driving on ice in places. Especially on the second pass when the road surface becomes 'polished' which means the tyres and car have nothing to grip onto. While conditions were still wet and muddy this year, there was virtually no rain. Almost against the laws of physics, the roads were more slippery with no rain. At least when it rains; the roads become more muddy and gives you something to 'dig' into and find some grip. This year, the hard base roads had very little of a layer of anything on top of the rock base, meaning there was nothing to extract grip from.
I spoke a lot over the weekend how these conditions did not suit my driving style and the general reason for this is the lack of grip. My natural style is to slide the car more on the entry of the corner to get a straight exit – but doing that here meant the rear would then become unbalanced, loose even more grip and loose all corner speed. For the final day yesterday we tried a smoother style which while didn't show anything in the times, will give us important info for next year. It is important we learn from this year and become more adaptable so that I can increase my 'window of performance'. At the moment that window is too limited.
But it's not all negative. We were much more competitive this year compared to last (last year finishing 3 minutes behind Ogier, this year less that 2) and we were pushing our team mate Thierry all the way for the podium (who always goes well here). We also keep our 4th in the championship which gives us a good road position for Australia while closing the gap to third by just 3 points. Australia will not only be a battle for the rally result, but it's now a straight out fight for 3rd in the championship. Who would have thought at the start of the year that we would be fighting for 3rd in the drivers championship in only our second full year in the WRC.
The work has already began to prepare better than ever for Australia. Naturally I have been looking forward to the rally all year which will be made even more special for the fact we will have over 100 guests that we will hosting and supporting us.
Huge thanks for everyone's continued support. It may not seem like it (especially after the Argentina result earlier this year) but we are still making progress with every rally and continuing to make sure we do make steps forward. We will continue that moving forward for 2017.