Paddon’s flying end to debut season
Kiwi Hayden Paddon helped round off a fantastic debut year for the Hyundai World Rally Championship team by finishing 10th overall in the iconic Wales Rally GB (formerly known as the RAC Rally), last event of the 2014 season.
The Hyundai Shell World rally team closed the season with a three-car finish in Britain, with team leader Thierry Neuville consolidating his a hard-fought fourth position overall by taking second place and an extra two points on the Power Stage.
Paddon and his New Zealand codriver John Kennard came in a solid 10th overall, and Finland’s Juho Hänninen and Tomi Tuominen were 30th.
Paddon has ended the season 14th overall in the WRC driver’s standings.
And it seems Paddon will definitely be in with a WRC drive for next year, competing in all nine gravel road events.
“We’ll definitely be in the world championship next year in a World Rally Car, but there are a lot of details to be sorted,” he told wrc.com.
The final day of Wales Rally GB was particularly tough, with drivers tackling six special stages, a loop of three stages repeated in reverse order (Brenig-10.81km, Alwen10.04km, Kinmel Park 2.21km) with Brenig acting as the Power Stage at lunch time.
The 46.12km of Sunday stages take the event’s total to 305km, offering the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team the chance to pick up more valuable experience with its always-evolving Hyundai i20 WRC car. Conditions have been among the most challenging of the season with the muddy, slippery stages giving drivers a real test of their talent.
Belgium’s Thierry Neuville (co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul) had been involved in a close battle for fourth place for much of the rally, and this was eventually cemented after Kris Meeke suffered punctures on the final morning.
Hayden Paddon completed his sixth WRC event with the team with a fighting finish as he chased down a top 10 result, in the end just 5.2 seconds from ninth. The Kiwi crew h sought to make gains throughout the three-day event, improving their confidence in the no.20 car, and adding more information to the team’s wealth of data from this debut season.
Paddon commented on the final day: “There’s no hiding from the fact it’s been a hard weekend. This rally has been completely different to the other five we’ve contested this year so we’ve had to learn a lot and adapt.
“Friday was tough, but we have made improvements stage by stage and day by day.
“Today has been a short day but it has been a good one, showing the developments we’ve made over the three days. Our objective in all rallies this year has been to learn, to gain experience and Wales Rally GB has been no different. With that in mind, I think we’ve accomplished a lot is a nice way for the team to close the first season in WRC.”
Each of the 13 rounds on this year’s competitive WRC calendar have offered the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team a stern test in its debut season on the global rally stage, but the Alzenau-based squad has risen to the challenge.
Despite it being a learning year, the team has made a positive impression on the series with a memorable onetwo in Rallye Deutschland one of the highlights of the year.
The team has scored podiums in three events – Mexico, Poland and Germany – as well as taking 12 stage wins along the way, exceeding the modest targets set by the team for its first year in the Championship.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “We have met our targets of a three car finish, and worked very hard to make improvements to the Hyundai i20 WRC cars over the weekend.
“These conditions are unlike any we have faced during the season so it is a useful addition to our learning curve. As the final rally of 2014, we have brought our learning season to a successful conclusion. I am personally very proud of everything our young team has achieved this year. “From the debut at Monte Carlo to our one-two in Germany and this weekend in Wales, we have made a lot of progress, with many highlights.
“In some regards, we have exceeded our targets but most importantly we have built up a huge bank of experience, information and knowledge which will be crucial to us as we prepare our second season.
“We will sit down and reflect on this complete season but the team and drivers have performed fantastically well all year and I think we can all be very happy with what we’ve accomplished in such a short space of time.”
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