Paddon secures fourth in Swedish snow debut

Kiwi world production car rally champions Hayden Paddon and John Kennard have finished Rally Sweden – Paddon’s first event on snow – with a solid fourth place in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship field.

Twenty four-year-old Paddon was pleased to have finished the first event of his SWRC season.

“It’s been three days of flat-out rallying on snow and ice-covered roads. Fourth is not a bad result, all things considered, and gives us good points on the board to start our season,” says Paddon, who now lives in Montgat, Spain near the Spanish team which runs his Skoda Fabia S2000 rally car.

“Sunday’s six stages went smoothly without any dramas. Between each stage we continued to try new things with the car’s setup which continued our learning process about how to get the best from the Skoda. We have still been struggling to find what exactly works with the car on this surface but we have learnt a lot about both the car and the rally this weekend.”

Paddon, who has two New Zealand rally championship titles to his credit as well as winning the FIA Production World Rally Championship in 2011, admits fourth place isn’t what he was aiming for.

“But there are still a lot of positives to take from the weekend. I am now very determined that once we get back to our favoured surface of gravel for our next event in Portugal that we will have a different and more competitive package which will involve a lot of hard work and homework over the next five weeks.”

Looking at Paddon’s stage times versus his other SWRC competitors such as Swede PG Andersson in the Proton who won the SWRC category in Sweden and current SWRC points-leader Irishman Craig Breen who finished second, Paddon is very close to the leaders – a fact to be taken into consideration given Rally Sweden was his first event in the Skoda S2000 car and his first event on snow. Consider also that Paddon eight minutes stuck in a snow bank during Friday’s third stage – a common occurrence on snow rallies – and the fact his total time was just over six minutes greater than another Swede Pontus Tidemand who finished third in a similar Skoda Fabia S2000.

Paddon was very appreciative of his new team, ASM Motorsport, and how they worked with him to continue trying to find the best setup. Paddon finished Rally Sweden 23rd overall.

“Now the hard work begins as we build up to Rally Portugal, which takes place from 29 March to 1 April.”

Paddon’s 2012 SWRC campaign comprises Rally Sweden, then Portugal which he’s contested twice before in-front of the hundreds of thousands of passionate fans. He returns home for Rally New Zealand, 21 to 24 June, before heading to a summery Rally Finland, from 4 to 7 August with its high speed gravel roads and massive ‘yumps’. In September he heads to Great Britain before the all-tarmac Rally France, running 4 to 7 October, and wraps up his season in his new country of residence, Spain, which runs 8 to 11 November with a mix of gravel and tarmac.