New Zealand’s Hyundai World Rally Championship factory pair of Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard remain guarded over their prospects in the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally later this week.
The pair will become the first all-Kiwi combination to tackle the time-honoured but tricky rally.
Armed with a fresh three-year contract with the German-based Korean squad, Paddon is weary of the conditions and challenges Monte traditionally serves up.
“I would rate this one of the most challenging events on the calendar due to the wintry conditions we expect,” the 28-year-old Paddon said.
Restricted to undertaking the reconnaissance for Monte over the last two years, Paddon says that previously developing base pace notes will help but is fully aware of the challenge ahead.
“Given we have not competed in this rally before and have much to learn about the tyre choices, potential stage conditions and narrow, winding roads, our goal is to use this event to learn for the future.”
“It’s a way to get our new season with Hyundai Motorsport started and the main goal is to finish.”
“We have done recce twice before, so this helps a little that we have some base notes.
“However, conditions often change a lot between recce and the rally and the job of our gravel-ice crew (which drive the rally route before the roads are closed for competitors) is more important than ever here.
“The biggest challenge during the rally will be translating their information of things I have not seen before and adapting to it as best I can.”
Kennard adds: “For me the biggest challenge with Monte so far has been preparing the notes we have from recce in 2014 and 2015 with enough space for the ice note crew to add the very large amount of information they sometimes need to.”
“This has meant rewriting the notes we’ll re-use with less lines per page, so there’s more room between.
“So the longest of the stages, at over 55km, has expanded from 25 to 42 pages.
Paddon will remain with the i20 WRC he campaigned last season while team-mates Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo will debut the new generation machine at the Monte.
“We have all been heavily involved with testing the new car and John and I start with the new car in Sweden,” says Paddon.
CLICK HERE for the full 2016 WRC calendar.