Paddon returns to Europe for Canarias tarmac challenge

This coming weekend, 2 to 4 May, New Zealanders Hayden Paddon and John Kennard head back to Europe to contest the second FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) event of 2024.

Having finished second here last year on their first attempt of this fast all-tarmac rally and seeded number one for this year’s edition, Paddon is looking forward to challenging the front-runners for another podium finish.

“It’s a rally that we have some experience with from last year,” says Paddon before boarding the long-haul flight back to Europe. “It’s good, for the first time in our ERC experience, to return to a rally that we've done before. We have some pace notes, we have some experience, and we are hoping to make some improvements on the car. It’s particularly pleasing to have the upgraded engine in the Hyundai i20 Rally 2 car that’s run by BRC Racing for us, plus there are a few other bits and pieces we’re able to tweak on the car. John and I are excited to get back to some roads we have rallied before.”

The fourth place at Rally Hungary netted Paddon 19 points towards his bid to win a second ERC title, he’s keen to build on this slower-than-wanted start. 

“Obviously, it was good to get some points on the board, but Hungary didn't quite deliver the result we were after, so our motivation is quite high for the Canary Islands to try and make amends for that and give it our best shot to get back on that podium. While the season is still young, it’s important to get points ticking over consistently with each rally. With this being our 19th season competing together, John and I are also trying to win more ERC rallies and be more competitive this year, so there’s plenty to motivate us performance-wise.”

From the first ERC round in Hungary, Paddon could see the intensity of competition was even more fierce. 

“We’re seeing up to 15 drivers competing for the win. While we didn't get a podium result in Hungary, the one we regard as our main championship rivals didn't get any points, so there’s a small advantage in that respect. But it's very hard to predict the championship results because it is constantly changing, which keeps us on our toes as well because we don't necessarily know who we're directly competing with on each event. So, you just have to put your hammer down and try to get as many points as you can from as many people as you can.”

Based in the town of Las Palmas, Rally Islas Canarias comprises 13 special stages over 193.12 competitive km on asphalt roads which climb and descend frequently. A notable feature of the sealed stages is the abrasive surface, which is constructed partly from volcanic lava. This grip levels are high and remain constant if it rains, although tire wear can increase in dry conditions. Former winners include Didier Auriol, Piero Liatti, and Carlos Sainz who claimed five consecutive victories in the 1980s.


Hayden Paddon Rally Canarias

On Wednesday, European time, they will participate in reconnaissance where they’ll be looking to refine their pace notes. Recce continues Thursday morning before the qualifying stage for FIA and ERC1 priority drivers. Qualifying results determine the order in which drivers can choose their road position for Friday's start list.

Paddon is seeded number one on the entry list, ahead of 2022 ERC champion Efren Llarena.

When he returns to New Zealand for the one-day Rally South Canterbury on 11 May, Paddon has young Christchurch co-driver Jared Hudson alongside.

“It’s the first time Jared’s competed with us for a full NZ championship and this is an opportunity for John and I to work together to help Jared learn and grow. We’re looking forward to seeing him come up through the ranks and it helps to even out some of the travel and logistics.”

Paddon Racing Group appreciates the support of Hyundai New Zealand, Mitre 10 Trade, Z Energy, Valvoline, Makita, Bars Bugs, Pirelli, OMP/Racer Products, Winmax Brake Pads, South Canterbury Road Safety, Ben Nevis Station, Repco NZ, Stedi, Highlands Motorsport Park, MITO, Machinery House, Design Windows, Bartercard, Mike Greer Homes, Provident Insurance, Carters Tyres and Signbiz.

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