Kiwi rally star Hayden Paddon has pressed the reset button as he and the Hyundai New Zealand Rally team refocus for Rally Finland this coming weekend.
After the disappointment of Paddon and others testing positive for COVID at Rally Estonia early in July, the team is working hard on their development plans with the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 car to be ready for their second WRC2 event in Finland.
In Estonia, already feeling ill, Paddon was only able to complete the first morning of competition so the anticipated mileage behind the wheel of the new car was cut short.
Now recovered and based in Finland ahead of the rally, the team arranged the use of a road to complete a short test of around 50km on the last weekend of July to assist with their learning and data collection with the new car.
Paddon is looking forward to returning to these iconic, fast roads he describes as a gravel rollercoaster with Finland being one of his favourite WRC events.
A podium finish in the WRC2 category is the ideal goal, but Paddon and co-driver John Kennard know they’re up against some very fast local European competitors.
Paddon and Kennard are among 17 competitors entered for the WRC2 category.
The pair are aiming to have a consistent pace throughout the weekend to get to the finish and maximise the opportunity to gain performance data for future improvements with the car.
“With Estonia being cut short, we are lacking some mileage with the new car at present and things haven’t gone exactly to plan,” said Paddon.
“We introduced a small test prior to Finland to try and learn more about the car and continue our development. With a short and constructive 50km of testing, it was really good to experiment and try some new set-ups. By the end of the day I felt a lot more comfortable behind the wheel.
“The plan is to take this confidence into the weekend and see how the car performs in rally conditions, but we are certainly tracking in a good direction.
“Our efforts in developing the Rally2 car is good not only for Rally Finland, but also looking ahead towards Rally New Zealand in late September.”
Paddon added, “Having our own team from New Zealand here together in Europe has been comforting and enjoyable. Everyone’s been working really hard even within the constraints of our very tight budget. The main thing is we are all on the same page and, despite the disappointment of Estonia, we’re all upbeat and focused to make amends in Finland.”
Rally Finland gets underway on Thursday 4 August with the exciting mixed-surface Harju street stage in front of big crowds in the centre of host city Jyväskylä, which is about 270 km north of Helsinki.
Friday’s action comprises a repeated loop of four special stages in the forests north-east of the city and ends with a shorter version of the previous evening’s Harju street stage.
Saturday’s marathon leg features 150.30km of action, almost half the rally’s competitive distance, clustered around famous rollercoaster roads near Jämsä.
Sunday sees competitors tackle two stages twice including the iconic big jumps of Ruuhimäki. The 22 stages offer 322.61km in a total route of 1427.47km.