8 Feb 2017

Paddon returns to WRC after a tough couple of weeks

12:59 pm on 8 February 2017

The New Zealand driver Hayden Paddon returns to the World Rally Championship this weekend at Rally Sweden.

It is Paddon and co-driver John Kennard's first outing since the death of a spectator at the Monte Carlo Rally last month.

Hadyen Paddon and co-driver John Kennard were unhurt.

Hadyen Paddon and co-driver John Kennard were unhurt. Photo: L'Equipe / WRC / Screenshot

Paddon pulled out of that rally after he lost control of his Hyundai and hit a corner. The impact caused a spectator to fall down the bank and he later died.

Paddon says he'll dedicate his drive to the spectator who died.

He says he's looking forward to driving in his favourite rally.

"I won't lie - I can say the last couple of weeks have been tough. But the overwhelming amount of support and messages has been humbling and I thank you all - it's been a big help! That, along with competing in the memory of the spectator, gives us extra motivation this week to perform and we will be giving it our best shot."

"Despite being a snow event - this is one of the fastest events on the calendar. Its vital to have absolute confidence in both the pace notes and the studded tyres. Maybe even more so this year as almost 2/3 of the stages are new to us."

"In terms of the conditions - while there is less snow than what you would like to see for a 'winter' rally - after last year, the conditions look 10 times better."

"The two objectives this weekend is to finish but more importantly to enjoy the driving."

New Zealand rally driver Hayden Paddon.

New Zealand rally driver Hayden Paddon. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The WRC's only true winter rally, Rally Sweden is one of Paddon's favourites.

"I enjoy the conditions in Sweden and the fast nature of the stages which take us across the border into Norway. Last year, we were able to be competitive there." [Paddon and Kennard secured a history-making second place at the 2016 edition of Rally Sweden. Paddon became the first non-European driver to finish on the podium on the snow rally and was one of only seven non-Scandinavian drivers to finish second in Sweden's WRC event.]

Paddon adds: "It's a good rally for us to build the confidence back and the goal is to get back to basics by enjoying the driving again."

About two-thirds of the rally route is new, which Paddon says will mix things up a bit for all 14 WRC drivers. "It's crucial to write good, new notes on these fast stages, but the weather and amount of snow differs year to year and this can affect the stages more so."