Sun 03 Sep 2023

ERC @ 70: Paddon’s perfect year revisited part two

Two weeks ago today, Hayden Paddon began celebrating winning the FIA European Rally Championship for 2023* in somewhat unusual circumstances.

Even though the 36-year-old BRC Racing Team driver had crashed out of Barum Czech Rally Zlín, his points total from the first six rounds couldn’t be surpassed, making Paddon the first Hyundai-powered competitor to take the coveted crown alongside his co-driver John Kennard.

In the second and final part of his 2023 season review, New Zealander Paddon discusses getting off to a flyer in Fafe, competing in Canary Islands after all, his BRC Racing Team, overcoming a lack of event knowledge and pushing for more wins in 2024 – should a title defence be possible.

On getting off to a flyer in Fafe?
“Winning Fafe certainly wasn’t expected. The whole deal we put together with BRC came together quite late, so we didn’t really get any testing before Portugal. We had one test day, but we essentially got rained out. Okay we had some knowledge of the car from 2022, but we were still developing the car a lot. We didn’t really have the optimal set-up in Portugal but then after that rally we had a lot of information and BRC went away and developed the car a lot and the car just progressively got better and better as the season went on. The result in Portugal was very nice but it wasn’t the optimal performance.”

On adding Rally Islas Canarias to the schedule as a result…
“It was just a combination of things that we added this rally to our schedule. We saw how competitive the championship was, obviously with that first win and us spending some time with the team and getting to know everyone, we could see how dedicated and motivated they were. We sat together after Portugal and thought is it actually a wise idea to miss a rally so early in the season. We all came to the conclusion that we need to keep this rally up our sleeves in terms of the dropped round for later in the year."

On BRC Racing Team…
“One hundred per cent they’re definitely the best privateer team I’ve ever worked with, just very, very motivated. It’s a pleasure to work with people who are on the same page as you in terms of the amount of effort they are prepared to put in. We are all here to win, we’re all here trying to achieve the same thing. It was not like a normal business deal, it felt more like a sporting arrangement and the fact we’re trying to achieve the same thing together. I loved the time with them this year. We’ve built a really good relationship with BRC this year and I’d love to build that relationship more and do even greater things together. We’ve just got to try to join all the dots somehow.”

On overcoming lack of event knowledge…
“We’d done the Colin’s Crest stage in Sweden in the snow, we’d one the Fafe stage in Portugal but apart from that our knowledge was pretty limited. But in saying that, a lot of other competitors were in similar boats, although for the local competitors it was a different story. Okay, I don’t know what the calendar might be next year yet but if you are going back to some rallies with stages that are the same that experience counts for a lot, the pacenotes, the data we have from this year, naturally you will go a lot faster.”

On pushing for more wins in 2024…
“It’s not like weren’t driving fast this season, obviously we were driving fast but we were managing risks. When we got ourselves in a situation when we needed to up the ante a little bit, which requires more risks, more speed or cutting corners or whatever it may be, we were never prepared to do that so that’s the next level. There is a bit of speed in reserve, which if we can put a programme together for next year and go in with a mindset of having already won the championship – okay that would still be a goal – but it’s not like something you haven’t done before. Therefore you just focus on driving each rally on its own merits and just go all out.”

*Subject to confirmation of the results by the FIA

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM