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Points at ERC Estonia Paddon’s goal

The high speed roads of Rally Estonia, running 5 to 7 July, are the next challenge for New Zealand rally pairing Hayden Paddon and John Kennard where they’re aiming to finish strongly among the points.

As current co-leaders of the 2024 FIA European Rally Championship (ERC), Paddon and Kennard know the competition in Estonia will be intense as they continue their strong bid to secure a second ERC title in their BRC Racing-run Hyundai i20 Rally 2 car.

“We would love to be competing for a win again in Estonia,” says Paddon of a rally he has some experience of, having finished second there in 2018 with Seb Marshall in a Hyundai i20 WRC car and completed the first few stages in 2022 when he was forced to retire due to ill health.

“As with every ERC round so far this year, there will be a lot of fast drivers including numerous local drivers who know the road conditions well. However, championship wise, our focus is firmly on staying ahead of Mattieu Franchesci, who shares the top of the points-table with me at present. This is no easy feat as he is driving very well this year.”

After the first three ERC rounds, Paddon and Franchesci each have 56 points with Romanian driver Simone Tempestini in third with 40 points.

Paddon describes Rally Estonia as another very fast, enjoyable gravel rally on the ERC calendar. “The key differences to Sweden are that the road surface is softer, so it cuts up on the second pass a lot more, and many jumps. It’s a high commitment rally, maybe even more so than Sweden as the room for margin is greater.”

Starting in the eastern city of Tartu, Rally Estonia comprises 187.64 km of competition across 14 special stages. Friday evening’s super special stage in Tartu is followed by nine stages on Saturday and four stages on Sunday, all south of Tartu.

The BRC Racing-run Hyundai i20 Rally 2 car will be in similar set-up to how it was in Sweden where Paddon and Kennard finished a hard-fought third. “We’ll be using the pre-event test in Estonia to get the car dialled into the conditions. Performance-wise, we are pushing and trying as much as we can along with BRC team who are doing an amazing job.”

BRC Racing team principal Gabriele Rizzo says: “We feel we have collected fewer points than we deserved so far this season. Already two times this year in the gravel power stages, we lost time that effected the points earned from the power stage and the event overall. Compare this to last year on gravel we were the best power stage point scorer of the season, thus the first target of the weekend ahead in Estonia is to reverse this trend. We have worked very hard in recent weeks looking at every small detail to be prepared for this event. I believe the commitment of the team and of Hayden and John is higher than ever. Further motivation comes from looking at WRC Poland results, where ERC drivers were performing pretty well on different classes which shows that the level of competition in ERC is very high, and we are working hard to secure the championship again.”

Estonia is the final gravel event of the eight-round ERC season with four super high-speed tarmac rallies still to come. Paddon concludes: “We want to enjoy this last gravel rally of the European season as much as possible and make the most of scoring as many points on our favoured surface as we can.”

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, TrailLite, Repco NZ, Stedi, Highlands Motorsport Park, MITO, Machinery House, Design Windows, Bartercard, Mike Greer Homes, Provident Insurance, King Gee Clothing and Signbiz.

Keep up with Hayden Paddon’s news via the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/paddonracinggroup.

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