Paddon predicts 10-way fight for ERC title

Rally Hungary demonstrated that competition for the European title is fiercer than ever


Defending European Rally Champion Hayden Paddon has talked of a 10-way battle to take the title this season.

The Kiwi pointed to Hungary’s opening round of the ERC to underline his prediction that this will be one of the most competitive European campaigns in the 71-year history of the series.

“It’s definitely going to be tough this year,” Paddon told DirtFish. “Just look at Hungary – you’d say the three drivers on the podium (Simone Tempestini, Mathieu Franceschi and Miklós Csomós) are probably going to be in a strong position this year. Then there’s going to Mārtinš Sesks, Mads [Østberg] and Yoann Bonato has to be factored in with more Tarmac rallies in the calendar – there’s seven already.

“I think there’s going to be 10 people capable of winning this championship and, to be honest, that’s good for us. It’s good to have a lot of people squabbling over the points, it keeps everything close.”

Simone Tempestini

Simone Tempestini won Rally Hungary and Paddon believes he is one of 10 drivers who is capable of winning the ERC in 2024

Paddon’s own title defence didn’t get off to the best possible start after a final-stage puncture dropped him from second and a possible win to fourth place.

“A lot of the event was about tire management,” he said. “We’d stuck to our strategy and I was pretty happy with things. We didn’t go all-out on that rally, the risk of punctures was high and everything was going to plan until the last stage.

“At the end of the day, some of the drivers pushed harder, took the risks and came away with zero. We have points for fourth and that’s a solid place to start from. Now, we go to Canaries and we go again. It’s probably fair to say Tarmac’s not my number one surface, but I would also add that this event (Rally Islas Canarias) is one of my favourite Tarmac events anywhere in the world. The stages are really, really nice.

Hayden Paddon

Paddon's title defense didn't get off to the best start: a puncture on the final stage of Rally Hungary took him out of contention for the win

“The approach for John [Kennard, co-driver] and I will be the same as it always is when we get to an event – we’re going to go as hard as we can and try to get out to the front.”

Rally Islas Canarias gets underway with shakedown at 1500 on Thursday (May 2). The opening stage is in Las Palmas later that evening, followed by two days of flat-out driving across the Spanish island’s smooth and circuit-style asphalt roads. The rally finishes at the Estadio de Gran Canaria in Las Palmas at 1815 on Saturday (May 4).