Paddon gunning to secure ERC title in Czech Republic
New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard are 100% focused on securing the 2023 FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) title when the seventh round takes place in the Czech Republic from 19 to 20 August.
“The target in Zlin is to wrap up the championship,” says Paddon. “The rally result will be irrelevant; it’s all about being strategic with our driving to try and win the championship. This is something the BRC Racing team, John and I have been working hard towards all year.”
With a 55-point lead over second-placed Latvian Martin Sesks, Paddon goes into Barum Czech Rally Zlin as the number one seed. But he’s not worried about his final position in this rally, other than in relation to where Sesks finishes. The Czech rally is the penultimate ERC round and competitors need to drop their worst round for the final calculation of championship points, so as long as Sesks is unable to secure enough points in Czechia or the final round in Hungary in October, the title is Paddon’s for the taking.
If Paddon and Kennard can secure the ERC title, they’ll become the first New Zealanders and the first non-Europeans to win the drivers’ and co-drivers’ championship titles in the ERC’s 70-year history.
And while Paddon and Kennard haven’t ever driven the special stages of this two-day rally in and around the city of Zlin, that won’t hinder their focus on securing a result good enough to wrap up the championship. The two Kiwi rally stars have vast experience working together writing fresh pace notes and delivering worldclass performances whether they’re on familiar roads at home or new roads on the other side of the world.
“It’s our first time rallying in the Czech Republic, and it certainly looks like the most challenging rally we will encounter this year,” says Paddon. “I have heard a lot of positive things about how passionate the fans are there and look forward to being a part of that.”
Paddon says the stages look to be very bumpy, narrow, slippery and fast. “That’s quite a challenging combination and maybe don’t play to my traditional strengths, so it’s important John and I, together with our team BRC Racing deliver on our clear target, which is championship focused rather than rally focused.”
Paddon and Kennard join BRC Racing for a brief test in their Hyundai i20 Rally 2 car before the rally where they’ll finetune the unique higher and softer setup needed for this high speed tarmac rally.
Barum Czech Rally Zlín ran for the first time in 1971 and is described as a tarmac test like no other due to the bumpy and sometimes broken nature of the road surface. Several stages feature high-speed blasts through forests and intermittent showers are always possible. Huge numbers of fans follow the action, especially on the opening night-time Zlín superspecial stage. This event has been part of the ERC for more than 50 years and features a permanent service park hosted by event sponsor Continental Barum at their giant tyre factory and distribution centre in nearby Otrokovice.
The rally officially gets underway on Friday evening with an opening super special stage in the streets of Zlín. Saturday’s schedule comprises six stages, being three stages repeated morning and afternoon. Another six stages take place on Sunday, making a total of 13 stages and 200.43 km of competition.
Paddon and Hyundai New Zealand Rally appreciate the support of Hyundai New Zealand, Mitre 10 Trade, Z Energy, Makita, Open Country, Bars Bugs, Pirelli, OMP/Racer Products, Winmax Brake Pads, South Canterbury Road Safety, Ben Nevis Station, Bailey Caravans, Repco NZ, Highlands Motorsport Park, MITO, ETCO, Jacanna Freight, Pak N’ Save, Machinery House, Bartercard, Mike Greer Homes, Provident Insurance, Zealandia Systems, Carters Tyres and Signbiz.
Keep up with news on Hayden Paddon and the Hyundai New Zealand Rally team via the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/paddonrallysport.