New Zealan­der work­ing on men­tal ap­proach to chal­lenge Ogier

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - By David Evans Pho­tos: mck­lein-im­age­

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.”

Paddon had a break­out year in 2015 Paddon is a big rugby sup­porter

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