Kiwi rally driver Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard are as ready for the opening round of the 2023 FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) when it gets underway on Friday evening in Fafe in northern Portugal.
The rally, ERC Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras, runs 10 to 12 March with 17 special stages totalling 180.29km on mainly gravel roads with some asphalt sections.
They are working with Italian team BRC to contest seven of the eight ERC rallies, with personnel from Paddon’s Hyundai New Zealand Rally team working alongside BRC to prepare and run the car.
The pair had their first drive of a new-to-them Hyundai i20 N Rally 2 car on Wednesday in conditions Paddon describes as wet and muddy.
“While there wasn’t much we could conclude from the very wet and muddy conditions for our test, the car feels like our New Zealand one and it’s been great to get to know everyone from BRC,” Paddon said.
“We’re expecting similar conditions for the rally so it may be more of a matter of survival to get to the finish.”
On Thursday, European time, they get to see the stages during reconnaissance. This continues Friday morning before the qualifying stage for FIA and ERC1 priority drivers. Qualifying results determine the order in which drivers can choose their road position for Saturday’s start list.
The rally officially gets underway on Friday evening with a 1.43km super special stage in central Fafe. Saturday’s eight stages get underway about 8am and finish around 6.30pn with two runs over a loop of four stages. Sunday’s schedule also has two runs over a set of four stages, including the 14.9km Lameirinha stage with its iconic Pedra Sentada jump, which has been part of European rallying folklore for decades.
Paddon is seeded number two on the entry list, behind Spaniard Efrén Llarena who won the 2022 FIA ERC title and was runner-up to Andreas Mikkelsen in 2021. Number three on the Fafe entry list is another former WRC driver Craig Breen, also running in a Hyundai i20 N Rally2 car similar to Paddon’s.
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
Paddon’s 2023 ERC event calendar
11-12 March – Rally Serras de Fafe, Portugal
20-21 May – Rally Poland
17-18 June – Rally Liepāja, Latvia
7-9 July – Royal Rally of Scandinavia, Sweden
29-30 July – Rally di Roma Capitale, Italy
19-20 August – Barum Czech Rally Zlin, Czech Republic
7-8 October – IV. Rally Hungary, Hungary