While not yet complete, the 2017 rally season for New Zealander Hayden Paddon has not been a success. Paddon may find little to celebrate, with a best-placed second at Rally Poland his highlight.
The Hyundai driver wanted to leverage his backing, by challenging from the front but has had little chance over a season of struggles. Up-and-down is not going to provide consistency, and has not [to date] allowed the talented driver to reinforce his promise.
Beginning on a bad food, Monte Carlo saw him involved in the a night-time stage incident involving a spectator. That incident unsettled Paddon and co-driver John Kennard’s attempt to open the year with a Bang!
Hayden Paddon Finds Little to Celebrate in WRC 2017
Now, after the eighth fixture on the season has just been completed, Paddon has not been able to improve his standing. While the driver will find little to celebrate in 2017 so far, the bonus is on the driver to turn that to his advantage.
Hyundai fellow driver Thierry Neuville has shown that the WRC i20 is competitive. so besides Poland, the results have hardly represented the abilities of the manufacturer. And unfortunately this weekend, the complaint that Paddon had suffered [again] was punctures.
Two punctures hampered his efforts, and by all accounts he did a sterling job on Day Three–but it was too little, too late.
ADAC Rallye Deutschland Won by Ford Driver
Ott Tänak claimed the Rally Germany title, where he drove his Ford Fiesta to a 16.4 second victory; his second of the season.
It was a great win for the Estonian driver, and for the Ford team. They claimed not only the WRC category, but WRC2 and WRC3 sub-categories. A triple crown in Germany, with Championship leader Sebastien Ogier extending his lead over rival Thierry Neuville.
As above, the classification in the German Rally see’s no change at the top of the table. Sadly for Hayden Paddon, he falls one place, to ninth. And while the Hyundai driver may feel that he cannot likely raise his standing, Last Word on Motorsport hopes that his ‘racing spirit’ perseveres.
A puncture on Day One and Two ruined any chance to finish higher, but he must harness what speed he can, to impress the manufacturer. With Neuville highly placed, and claiming three rally wins, it should be a motivator.
Paddon Should Throw Everything Into Final Three Rallies
With little to lose [now], many would advise the New Zealand driver to ‘drive hard’ and force his name on the Championship. Not wholly aggressively, but a direct approach to hard-driving and to take on the challenge.
Do this, and Paddon can take more away from 2017, than just a ‘learning curve’. Because, if the curve ends lower than where he had dreamed, then it is a disappointment. And if the young driver does not give it 110% over the next three months, he will feel that it has been a lost season.
Step One: Rally RACC Catalunya/Rally de Espana – October 5
Two days of asphalt surfaces, blended with a day of primarily gravel stages, so the driver’s ability to adapt and manage tyre wear is critical. This may not be one of Paddon’s strengths, but now is the time to ‘learn quick’.
Step Two: Rally Great Britain, Wales – October 26
This is the key stage for a fight back. On gravel roads which suit his driving style, Paddon must put all his efforts into. To gain a great start is undeniably important–do that, and retain a straight-car, and he can reach high in Wales forests.
Step Three: Rally Australia – November 16
As close he can possibly to to ‘home soil’ the final rally of the season is a perfect way to close out his year. With factory backing, Paddon will have all the tools at his disposal. He will also have years of rallying in Australia behind him, so with this familiarity, all the cards ‘should’ be in his favour.
Take these three steps in a confident mood, and the Kiwi driver may still be able to see his name rise up the standings. With a good haul of points; literally, he could reach as high as fourth or third place outright.
Hayden Paddon Leads Campaign to Reinstate Rally New Zealand
One area where Paddon has been a leader, is in his campaign to lobby the FIA to reinstate his home championship event – Rally New Zealand.
On social media, Paddon has been very active is campaigning for public support.
RALLY FANS please RT this to show what the fans + WRC want/need – Rally New Zealand! This is a last ditch effort, it's now or never #2018 pic.twitter.com/afwVMJQ4J6
Paddon, a loyal supporter of his beloved Rally of New Zealand, naturally wants it to return the stage onto the full International circuit. The southern hemisphere event was last hosted in 2012. Won by Sébastien Loeb in that year–Paddon won the non-FIA event in 2011. That last event ended a long run of years that the rally was on the seasons calendar, and Paddon wants it to return.
The FIA World Motorsport Council are charged with determining the World Championship criteria, and schedules. If Paddon has hopes of reinstating Rally New Zealand on the calendar, this influential group needs to believe the stage is a worthy host. And the competition for an event, with nations like Turkey and Croatia all looking for concessions.
When Will the FIA Reinstate Rally New Zealand?
The answer is, not now. Australia command a place on the calendar, and have the financial backing. While that is a fact, it does not sit well with all parties. Many drivers enjoy the roads of New Zealand. They feel it suits the European style; less dust, than dirt, but without the financial backing.
Rally NZ organizers released a statement suggesting an expansion of the World Rally Championship would prove too challenging, mostly due to commercial considerations.
“There is still a small chance that we could be included on the 2018 calendar, but at this stage the WRC Promoter has said that the costs to venture to New Zealand are a major hurdle,” said spokesman Peter Johnston.
The single favourable advantage for the Kiwi event, is that with Paddon included in the WRC, the conversation stays alive. Paddon has said publicly “We’re sort of grasping at straws now. The inevitable is we probably won’t get it back. We won’t give up until the final calendar is announced, but it is certainly stacked against us at the moment.
“Every driver I speak to, they all want to come back here.”
Knowing his temerity and determination to succeed, Paddon will set his mind on the task. He will take the necessary steps to finish the 2017 season to his satisfaction. Too often this year, he has had to admit it is ‘a learning curve’. What fans of Paddon want to see is that curve heading upwards over the next three months.
With the backing of Hyundai, and his legion of growing fans, the ‘flying Kiwi’ can be successful. And with good luck, speed and willing, Hayden Paddon may make his dream of winning the World Rally Championship come true.
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