Tough road finding the perfect race

By Catherine Pattison on Sun, 23 Apr 2017

Reading through some recent post-event statements from two of our country's top motorsport exports, it struck me how incredibly tough it must be to always be striving for that (at times) elusive win.

Talk to either former Geraldine-based World Rally Championship driver Hayden Paddon or Palmerston motocross rider Courtney Duncan, who is in Europe for the next six months contesting the FIM Women's Motocross World Championship (WMX), and both will admit to a burning desire to be the best.

And that fire in their bellies began early on.

For Duncan (21), it stemmed back to when she was 13 and decided she wanted to pursue a professional racing career. At exactly the same age, equipped with sponsorship proposals, Paddon (30) went around each and every Geraldine business, eventually getting 15 companies on board at $100 each per year. This campaign continued for three years, and was where he crafted his skills of working with and looking after sponsors.

We all know motorsport is the deliverer of the highest highs and also dishes out the lowest lows, but what about the middle ground, the rallies and races that go OK, i.e. they didn't DNF or injure themselves but they didn't achieve the high standards they set themselves.

The recent WRC ‘‘rally of 10,000 corners'' in Corsica was an example of ‘‘an event that didn't quite deliver to expectations'' in Paddon's words. He and co-driver John Kennard's sixth placing gave them some solid championship points and Paddon was incrementally faster than last year, going from 0.5 seconds slower than the leaders per km, to 0.4 seconds this year, but Paddon says he expected more.

His driving is ‘‘all about the little details and searching for perfection. But I am not the sort of person content with not being competitive, regardless of the rally or surface''.

Duncan went into the Italian round of the WMX last weekend, fired up after winning the opening round in Indonesia. She led the two races but crashed while in front both times, leaving her with a 2-3 score card. While second and third in the world may seem pretty darn amazing to most, for Duncan it is not good enough.

She summed up the races as frustrating and berated herself for making a ‘‘silly mistake in both of them which cost [her] dearly''.

Duncan did come away as runner-up for the weekend and still has the leader's red plate on her Yamaha going into the third round in France in five weeks, having extended her lead to six points over Italian rider Kiara Fontanesi.

The determination to do better was paramount in both competitors' closing words.

Paddon looks eagerly ahead to five gravel events in a row and vows to stay positive and get his season back on track. He has often been quoted as saying he will not be truly satisfied until he is holding the WRC winner's trophy aloft.

Duncan has dealt with the bitter disappointment of having a world championship title within her grasp before a collision with a photographer robbed her of that chance. She promises to spend the weeks before the next round learning, getting better and she will ‘‘hopefully come back swinging and in fine form for France''.