Mo­tor sport

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At last New Zealand has a driver com­pet­ing in a fac­tory car in the top class of the World Rally Cham­pi­onship. Hay­den Pad­don, from Geral­dine in South Can­ter­bury, made his works WRC de­but in June driv­ing a Hyundai i20 in Rally Italy, which took place on the is­land of Sar­dinia.

Reach­ing the top level of world ral­ly­ing is ex­tremely re­sources. Pad­don has had to prove his speed and de­ter­mi­na­tion at ev­ery stage along the way, which has in­cluded win­ning New Zealand cham­pi­onships and the Pro­duc­tion World Rally Cham­pi­onship.

For­tu­nately for Pad­don, the WRC is in a strong po­si­tion now, with Hyundai join­ing Citroen and Volk­swa­gen in run­ning fac­tory teams, and pri­vate teams run­ning Fords. The in­crease in the num­ber of works cars had brought the need for more driv­ers, which en­abled Pad­don to find a place with Hyundai.

Pad­don had had one out­ing in a WRC car be­fore this sea­son, cam­paign­ing a Ford Fi­esta for the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team in the penul­ti­mate round of the 2013 cham­pi­onship. He and long-time co-driver in eighth place.

His de­but as a fac­tory WRC driver came at an event he had not con­tested be­fore, so he was not fa­mil­iar with the Sar­dinian stages, or even the gen­eral con­di­tions. He said it turned out to be one of the most dif­fi­cult events he had com­peted on for the first time.

“Com­ing into the event our tar­get was to learn and gain miles – which we did,” Pad­don said. “How­ever, I com­pletely un­der­es­ti­mated the chal­lenge of these very tech­ni­cal roads, which re­flected in the aver­age pace notes writ­ten from recce. This then made it dif­fi­cult for the whole weekend.

“Through­out the three days of the rally we made small im­prove­ments and learnt a lot. Most im­por­tant, we com­pleted most of the stages, and now have a lot of data that we can study. So we can now im­prove for our next events.”

One of Pad­don’s strengths as a driver is that he very sel­dom crashes; he can go very fast while keep­ing within the lim­its of his car’s abil­i­ties. In Sar­dinia he kept the Hyundai on the road in very tricky con­di­tions, but suf­fered two set­backs: a punc­ture on day one that cost a minute, and a mis­fire on day two af­ter go­ing through a ford. The team told him to stop the car and they fixed it overnight.

Un­der cur­rent rules, he was able to restart on day

three, with a 10 minute penalty for not fin­ish­ing the sec­ond day. He was of­fi­cially clas­si­fied as 12th – and scored Hyundai’s first cham­pi­onship points for the sea­son.

Ex­pe­ri­ence of the event was es­sen­tial for get­ting the best out of the car, Pad­don found, so his lack of ex­pe­ri­ence was quite a hand­i­cap. But the fi­nal day in­cluded one stage that was new to the rally, so it was more of a level play­ing field, and the

This is the first year of Hyundai’s re­turn to the WRC (they had a largely un­suc­cess­ful cam­paign some years ago) and the Ger­man-based team say they re­gard this as a learn­ing sea­son while they de­velop the i20 and gather data on the var­i­ous ral­lies.

The team also in­cludes the more ex­pe­ri­enced Thierry Neuville, whom Pad­don re­gards as his bench­mark. “On aver­age we were 0.75 sec­onds per km be­hind Thierry on the stages, and some­times as low as 0.5,” Padon said. “So this is pleas­ing, and this is a gap that we will look to close on the up­com­ing events, which I’m con­fi­dent we can do.”

World cham­pion Se­bastien Ogier (France) won the rally in Sar­dinia in his Volk­swa­gen Polo. Team-mate Jari-Matti Lat­vala (Fin­land) had held a big lead on day two, but hit a rock – one of the dan­gers on this event – and lost two min­utes while he stopped to change a dam­aged wheel.

Lat­vala re­cov­ered to fin­ish third, with Citroen’s Mads Ost­berg (Nor­way) sec­ond, his best fin­ish. Ford driver Mikko Hir­vo­nen ex­ited the event in spec­tac­u­lar style on day one when his car caught fire and was de­stroyed.

Pad­don has been com­pet­ing in mo­tor sport since he was six, when his fa­ther Chris – him­self a rally driver who en­joyed some suc­cess – built him a kart pow­ered by a lawn­mower en­gine.

Faster karts fol­lowed, and he was soon a front-run­ner in Can­ter­bury com­pe­ti­tions. At 13 he got his first car, an old Mini, and de­vel­oped that him­self, learn­ing valu­able me­chan­i­cal skills and en­joy­ing great suc­cess in gymkhanas. He started co-driv­ing for his fa­ther on ral­lies, and on his 15th birth­day en­tered the Ash­ley For­est Rally Sprint.

The Whangarei Rally of 2007 brought the first big break­through – it was a round of both the New Zealand and the Asia-Pa­cific cham­pi­onships, and

The next year he missed the NZ cham­pi­onship by a sin­gle point, but 2009 brought his first NZ cham­pi­onship and also the Pa­cific Cup. He also won the Pa­cific Pirelli Star Driver award, which gave him a fully-funded drive in the 2010 Pro­duc­tion World Rally Cham­pi­onship in a Mit­subishi. Pad­don won the New Zealand round, and with other podium fin­ishes ended the sea­son third in the PWRC.

Want­ing to re­turn to the PWRC but suf­fer­ing a sadly de­pleted bank bal­ance, Pad­don and his fol­low­ers formed Hay­den Pad­don Rallysport Global Ltd, which raised the large amounts of cash nec­es­sary for a world

driv­ing a Subaru.

For the next two sea­sons they moved up to an S2000 car (also known as WRC2), which is sim­i­lar to a full WRC car but with less power. They achieved more suc­cesses in a Skoda Fabia, and that helped pave the way for the Hyundai WRC drive. Last year they also won their home cham­pi­onship again, in a Mit­subishi, de­spite miss­ing two rounds be­cause of their in­ter­na­tional com­mit­ments.

Mean­while, in New Zealand this year, for­mer cham­pi­ons Richard and Sara Ma­son, a mar­ried cou­ple from Master­ton, are run­ning away with the na­tional se­ries af­ter win­ning the first three rounds in their Subaru WRX STI. The third round, in Can­ter­bury, saw the Ma­sons start the main day in sec­ond place as Nel­son’s Ben Hunt in an­other Subaru had won the two night-time stages on Satur­day evening and led by 14 sec­onds.

But in the day­light on Sun­day, run­ning over pub­lic roads in the Che­viot area of North Can­ter­bury, the Ma­sons won five of the six stages to beat Hunt home by more than a minute. David Holder was third in a Mit­subish, i and Lance Wil­liams fourth in an­other Subaru. Ma­son then led Wil­liams by 68 points with three rounds to go, and looks well set for his fifth na­tional cham­pi­onship.

The rules for the se­ries have been opened up to

Emma Gil­mour’s Suzuki Swift, which has been to­tally re­built to make it a big­ger car with a turbo en­gine and, of course, four-wheel-drive. The Su­per-Swift has been quick but has not yet won a rally.

Dunedin-based Gil­mour is also com­pet­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally and, like Hay­den Pad­don, she is driv­ing a Hyundai. She is run­ning in the Red Bull Global Ral­lycross Cham­pi­onship, driv­ing a Veloster for the team run by Rhys Millen, the son of ex­pat

Round one was in Bar­ba­dos and round two at the X Games in Austin, Texas. Ral­lycross is con­tested on cir­cuits con­tain­ing both sealed and dirt sec­tions, usu­ally with some big jumps.

At Austin Emma was pleased to make it through to the semi-fi­nals, while many more-ex­pe­ri­enced com­peti­tors ran into strife.

“It was such an un­be­liev­able ex­pe­ri­ence to make the semis at the X Games,” Gil­mour said. “There was a lot of car­nage go­ing on around me, but ba­si­cally I just kept it clean and made it through. The driv­ers were just des­per­ately try­ing to be the first into the first cor­ner, and there was no room for more than two cars, which caused the bot­tle­neck crashes.”

The win­ner was for­mer For­mula One driver Scott Speed, who was also vic­to­ri­ous in the open­ing round in Bar­ba­dos.

Hay­den Pad­don in ac­tion on the Sar­dinian rally, where loose rocks were a worry for the driv­ers. By Bernard Carpin­ter.

A win­ning team -- hus­band-and-wife team Richard (right) and Sara Ma­son cel­e­brate win­ning the 2014 Can­ter­bury Rally. Photo Ge­off Rid­der.

Emma Gil­mour and her much-mod­i­fied Suzuki Swift

Richard and Sara Ma­son on their way to vic­tory in the Can­ter­bury Rally. Photo Ge­off Rid­der.

Sara and Richard Ma­son cel­e­brate vic­tory in the Can­ter­bury Rally. Photo Ge­off Rid­der.

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