Heavy rain and unfamiliar roads will make this weekend’s Rally Argentina a tricky proposition for Geraldine’s Hayden Paddon.It may have been more than a month since his last World Rally Championship event, but the troubles of Mexico are still fresh in the mind of Hayden Paddon.
The Geraldine driver, who celebrated his 27th birthday on Monday, is aiming for a more consistent showing with his Hyundai Mobis Team on the famous El Condor roads in Rally Argentina this weekend.
“Argentina is going to be a very rough rally this year,” Paddon said.
“There has been a lot of rain and road damage in the past few weeks. So the objective is to set a consistent pace and try and avoid problems. If we can do that, then we hope we can finish well within the top eight.”
Paddon had a career-best fifth-place finish in the Rally of Sweden before a nightmare run of luck in Mexico saw him finish 17th, out of the points, and slip to 10th in the championship race, equal with England’s Kris Meeke.
In the break, Paddon squeezed in a trip back home before testing with his teammates in Portugal, which will host the fifth round of the championship in May.
“I was really happy with what we achieved with the test but of course the proof is always once we get on-event,” Paddon said.
“We worked on two key aspects. One related to the set-up direction we went for in Mexico.
“While it felt good and was driver-friendly, it did not produce the grip and traction that we needed. We now have some new set-up strategies that are working well in testing.
“Secondly, we have closely identified the key areas where my driving differs from our team-mates, and we are trying to adapt some of that.”
The Rally Argentina runs from Friday to Monday, New Zealand time, and while Paddon has had previous experience on the only South American event on the WRC circuit, that experience counted for little, he said.
“We were here once before four years ago and now none of the stages are the same. But any experience is good and we will draw on that as much as we can.
“Once we’re through the challenges of Argentina we’re back to Europe and more familiar events, so we have greater expectations in terms of results for those.”
Among the main characteristics of the rally are spectacular water splashes, lunar-like landscapes and sandy gravel roads, which often become rutted on the second pass.
The way the rally runs is also very different to most other WRC events.
There are just 12 special stages in total, with Saturday and Sunday comprising of just two repeated runs of two very long stages, while Monday’s finish is two runs of the El Condor.
Paddon doesn’t rate the long stages as being any more difficult than shorter ones.
“It’s really no different if you’re doing a five or 50km stage. The same preparation and mental approach goes for both. But the key in Argentina with the small number of competitive stages and long touring stages will be switching on and off mentally during the long gaps between stages.”
The rally is being run a month earlier than its usual calendar slot which will bring warmer weather and potentially more rain.