Last week’s Otago Rally asked and answered plenty of questions. Hayden Paddon’s decision to drive a Hyundai i20 N Rally2 as opposed to the AP4 car he’s used previously resonated with domestic series around the world.
New Zealand, like America, is fast approaching something of a regulatory crossroads. In one direction is the FIA’s tried and tested Rally2 route. The other? The open class.
There’s merit in both. With air and sea freight costs higher than ever right now, being able to build and rebuild a car utilizing kit sourced locally is way more attractive than shipping bits from the far side of the planet.
Putting the economics to one side for a moment, what was the news on the performance front?
The Hyundai New Zealand driver provided a typically incisive answer.
“The Rally2 car is easy to drive,” Paddon said. “The only thing that’s made it more difficult to drive is the five-speed gearbox – and, I guess, the power thing.”
An AP4 car would generally offer around 50bhp more than Rally2.
Paddon conintued: “The power and torque curves, with the longer gear ratios – because of the five-speed box – make it harder to be in the right gear for the right corner. In the AP4 car, you can use the torque. It’s like an old Group N car: you can lean on the gear and it’ll pull you through.
“I seemed to be between gears a lot at the weekend. That’s nothing to do with the car, it’s the way the rules are. I have to adapt to get the best of the situation. Other than that, the Rally2 car is easier and more fun to drive. And, of course, it weighs less and has more suspension travel.
“I would say the pros and cons weigh each other up. On a straight piece of road you’d take the AP4, but throw some corners in and you want a Rally2.”
That doesn’t mean Paddon’s advocating a straight switch to all Rally2.
“I remember when New Zealand went from an all-Group N championship to open class cars in 2013. I couldn’t see why we needed to do that – I thought it would be all about cheque book racing.
“At the time, it was the best thing they did. All of a sudden all these older cars came out and were competitive. There’s such a huge variety of cars out there and the reality for New Zealand and, I guess, America is that it’s not all about professional-level rallying. The difference in cars is not such a big factor as it is in Europe.
“In Europe you have 20 or 30 drivers all at the top level and really going at it. In Europe you want cars to be all the same so you can fight for tenths of seconds. Over here it’s more of a hobby and the difference in the standard of drivers can be bigger – so the difference in cars is not so important. The most important thing is that car’s viable.
“Spectators are coming out and to see shed builds and a bit of everything. Can we carry on like this? Why not.”