Tuesday | 23 May 2023

Paddon’s ERC Poland pressure plan revealed

Hayden Paddon hadn’t given up on winning for a second time in this season’s FIA European Rally Championship at the completion of ORLEN 79th Rally Poland’s first leg last Saturday, it has emerged.

The BRC Racing Team driver reached the overnight halt in Mikołajki 8.2sec behind leader and eventual winner Mārtiṇš Sesks.

Despite hinting that he wouldn’t risk a non-score in his pursuit of victory aboard his Pirelli-equipped Hyundai i20 N Rally2, Paddon’s fastest time on Sunday morning’s opening stage was proof that he still meant business in the victory chase.

Speaking at the halfway point of the gravel event on Saturday evening, Paddon said: “This afternoon was more rough and a little bit difficult because at one point we wanted to fight for the rally win but we were also thinking about the championship and you have to manage the risk, we managed the risk this afternoon. We lost a bit of time but we’re still in touching distance so tomorrow we’ll put the pressure on and see what happens.”

When pressed on his Sunday morning strategy, Paddon added: “I won’t give everything to fight for the win, it’s very important we get good points and second would be very good points. There’s a part of me that wants to win as well, I’m a driver so for sure on the first loop we’ll put the pressure on and see if we can close the gap and then we’ll evaluate after that.”

Paddon did put the pressure on his Team MRF Tyres-run rival Sesks by narrowing the Latvian’s lead to 7.4sec following his fastest time through SS9. But Paddon’s victory threat was reduced when it emerged that he’d damaged a front-right tyre and only had four tyres for the remaining three stages of the loop.

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“Today didn’t go to plan with a [damaged tyre] in the morning and a [damaged tyre] in the afternoon,” Paddon said on Sunday evening. “It felt like we’ve done most of the day without a spare tyre so it’s been a very, very stressful day I must say and we had to keep making a decision to do what’s best for the championship. You could have taken [two spare tyres for the afternoon loop] but we wanted to go for Power Stage points and two tyres would have counted against that.”