Hayden Paddon’s maiden podium finish, impressions

2015 World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Rally d'Italia Sardinia // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

This, in my opinion, is a great read, if you haven’t read it already by now. For Hayden Paddon and John Kennard, this was a fantastic event, even though they did finish one step down from the coveted top spot. For many, Hayden and John are the true winners of 2015 Rally Italia. And as is the case with winners, they usually make it look so easy and fully controlled, however, Paddon’s post event comments reveal just how tense and difficult it was for them. Sometimes post-event press conferences offer no news, so to speak, but often they provide a different view and perspective, especially when rallies turn out to be very dramatic or emotional. Hayden’s and John’s comments at the presser in Sardinia reveal a lot and I hope you’ll find them interesting. Even if only for Hayden’s apologies to Kiwi fans for keeping them up. Only to promise he’ll try even harder to meet his goals of top 5 finish in Poland as well; surely Kiwis will not want to miss that one either!

Paddon’s comments, as published in Hyundai’s press release: “To finish on the podium is an absolutely amazing feeling. Words can’t really do justice to how I’m feeling right now. We had a strong weekend from the start but we just tried to take each stage as it came without looking too much at the timesheets. We knew it would get tougher once we lost the start position advantage so the fact we could hold our own against the World Champion was just fantastic. We had our issues on Saturday afternoon, and thought that was the rally over, but thankfully we pushed on through, kept digging deep and made it through the Sunday in a comfortable second. Considering our buffer to Thierry in third, we took today very easily, not taking any risks and we have a debut podium as a reward. It’s been great to have such support from back home and I’m sorry they’ve had some late nights. I hope it’s been as worthwhile for them as it has been for us. We couldn’t have done this without the team, so my thanks to everyone at Hyundai Motorsport, too. Let’s hope this is the start of more results to come.”

FIA post-event press conference “cut-out”:

Q: Hayden, how are you feeling about your first podium?
It’s been an amazing weekend. Friday morning probably exceeded our expectation. At the end of the first stage I knew we had an advantage from where we were on the road, but the stage didn’t seem to flow so well. I said to John that we had lost of a lot of time in there, but we had the fastest time. I relaxed a bit after that, everything was working and it felt quite easy in the car. Second place is much more than we expected from this rally though – I guess expectation will be a lot higher for the rest of the year!

Q: Were you surprised that you could extend your lead?
After the first stage it was apparent that the morning could continue like that [with the advantage in the road position]. I was a bit nervous in the afternoon, not knowing how much advantage I would have. I think I probably got more satisfaction out of being in the top three and setting times close to Seb and Jari-Matti [Latvala] than the times in the morning – they gave me more confidence and I pushed on from there.

Q: What was the plan on Saturday morning?
I never thought, to be honest, about the result, it was just one stage at a time. We wanted to go out and do our own thing. I don’t think we would have kept Seb behind in a straight fight, I think he had something in the tank, but I was a bit surprised when we were still there on Saturday lunchtime.

Q: The paddle shift has helped you this weekend?
Surprisingly, that’s made a very big difference, but we didn’t have much testing before the event. The first time I used the paddle was at shakedown and a couple of times in the super special on Thursday night I went for the lever. The paddle helps to use the engine a bit more. Looking at the data, I’d been a gear higher than Thierry [Neuville] and Dani [Sordo] and now I’m a gear down in some places. In a lot of corners with the paddles, I’m using the gears more and really feeling the torque – that’s where the improvement is coming.

Q: You have more improvements coming?
We’re not far behind [the Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRCs]. We get an engine upgrade in Poland, but we’re pretty close and then it’s down to car set-up.

Q: This won’t be a one-off will it? Do we get a haka before Poland?
For sure it’s not a one-off, but we have to be realistic and keep our feet on the ground. My goal for Poland was to go for a top five and that stays the same. But for sure, I’m a very competitive person and I think now maybe for Australia we can start tagging the win. There are similar sort of road conditions and grip levels to what we have here. The feeling in the car is good and, for sure, I still have a lot to improve. We’re going to keep our feet on the ground.

Q: We saw emotional scenes at the stage end where you had the problem. The only words you said to the crew was: “It’s broken.” Did you think it was all over?
Definitely. When we broke it early on, we knew straight away what the problem was – we had the same problem in Argentina and we retired after 50 kilometres. This time we still had 80 kilometres to go. But we strapped it all together and cruised through the last stage. I was very surprised. I’m not one for showing a lot of happiness, but when things go wrong I am one for showing a lot of emotion and I was gutted.

Q: John, this is your first podium in 27 years – I hope we don’t have to wait as long for the next one!
I hope not! If Seb tidies the championship up in Germany then it does open the door for Australia, like Hayden says.

Q: You’ve been together a long time…
We did the Otago Rally in New Zealand to celebrate 10 years together and I’ve always had it in the back of my mind what Hayden’s capable of. He’s showing that now.

Q: He says he didn’t think the first stage had gone well, but you knew it had, didn’t you?
The stage felt a bit messy, but really good – he usually goes into that sort of mode: you get all these things: “The notes were rubbish…” and all those kind of things between the finish and the stop and that’s when you know it’s not a bad time.

Q: Was there pressure on you?
Like Hayden said, a few years ago we went back to the mentality of doing our own thing. We do the best we can do, and if that’s right or wrong, we can do something about it. We did our thing and it happened to turn out quite well.