PADDON IN ALL BLACKS TIE-UP
New Zealander working on mental approach to challenge Ogier
Hyundai driver Hayden Paddon is working with members of the All Blacks Rugby World Cup-winning team as he attempts to replicate their success on the stages of the World Rally Championship this season.
Paddon, 28, will start his first full year in the WRC with Hyundai Motorsport and as the New Zealander chases his – and his country’s – first win at rallying’s highest level, he says support from the world’s most successful rugby team has come as a major boost.
Paddon told Motorsport News: “The level we’re working at now, when you’re chasing somebody like [Sebastien] Ogier, you have to look at everything and at every sport, that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing with the All Blacks.
“I’m working more on the mental side of my approach this year and doing a lot more on the neuroscience and physical aspect of competing – that’s where I’m working with one of the All Blacks’ coaches.
“I’m just trying to improve every aspect of my game. When you look at the amount of money which is being spent on Sport New Zealand and the All Blacks to try and find all these new ways, it would be crazy not to tap into and utlise what they’re doing.”
Paddon met with All Blacks coach Graham Henry in Auckland late last year and was left in no doubt what the World Cup winner expected of his fellow countryman.
“Graham’s an ambassador for Hyundai,” said Paddon. “So we were at this lunch with a few others. I was talking to him and when he was walking out of the door he turned and said to me: ‘If you’re not going to be a world champion before 2018, I’ll be disappointed boy.’ He’s a hard case and a really good sort.”
“That’s the good thing about New Zealand, it’s a pretty small place where everybody knows everybody and we’re all into helping each other.
“I watch rugby and follow it, I’m always behind the Kiwis and to win the Rugby World Cup back-toback for the first time last year was really special. But what was more special was the way they did it. What the All Blacks do in rugby – and what they did in the World Cup especially – is what Ogier does in rallying: always perform under pressure. Ogier and the All Blacks always pull through and they do it when they have to. A lot of folk didn’t believe in the All Blacks early in the stages of the World Cup, but they went about their business and just got on with it. That’s what we have to do.”
South Islander Paddon, who lives close to Hyundai’s team headquarters in Frankfurt, said he was hoping to meet up with another New Zealander who had recently settled in Europe. The All Blacks’ star fly-half Dan Carter began playing with Paris-based Racing 92 in the autumn.
“Dan Carter’s just over the border from us in France now,” said Paddon. “It’d be really good to get him in the car and give him a run.”
Before that, Paddon will focus on improving on his start to the season – something he felt let him down in 2015.
He begins the year in a 2015-specification Hyundai i20 WRC, using the old car to make his Monte Carlo Rally debut. After that, he’s in a 2016 car and on equal terms with team-mates Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo.
Paddon was fifth in Sweden, his first event of 2015, before struggling in Mexico and Argentina. Once back in Europe, his season went from strength to strength and he scored his first podium in Sardinia.
“I’m not here this year to win the title,” Paddon said. “I’m here to focus on single rallies and build a championship for the future. Even Sweden, I enjoy it, but I don’t have the necessary experience to fight there. We’ll build on what we did last year and wait until we get to the gravel rallies.
“Realistically the European gravel rallies are the ones where we stand the best chance: Mexico I’ve only done once before, Argentina once last year and once in 2011. You could say we start looking for the wins in Portugal.
“The next step for me is to start trying to win rallies outright – but the mindset is different this year. We’re not about to start targeting rallies, the plan this time is that if we feel comfortable with the event we push to try and win it.”