AUSTRALIA’S Scott Pedder returns to the scene of his strongest WRC2 result when he and co-driver Dale Moscatt contest Neste Rally Finland next weekend.
The 2014 Australian champions finished an outstanding fourth in WRC2 last year, tackling the WRC’s fastest rally for the first time.
They return to Finland with more experience and confidence and a different car – their Skoda Fabia R5 replacing 2015’s Ford Fiesta R5 – and having equalled the fourth placing on Vodafone Rally Portugal in May.
“We got a great result here last year, fourth in WRC2 against some amazing competition, and we achieved it by knuckling down,” Pedder said.
“Even though it’s the fastest rally on the calendar I started the event not concentrating on speed, which for me is a hard thing to do, but on just concentrating on driving. My aim is to do similar this year.”
The Australians begin their Finnish campaign at a test session with other top-flight WRC contenders near the rally base in Jyväskylä. The rally starts on Thursday night with a street stage ahead of three full days of fast and furious forest racing.
Pedder resumes his five-event WRC2 campaign – which will culminate at Kennards Hire Rally Australia on 17-20 November – after a frustrating previous round at Rally Poland earlier this month.
Despite showing impressive speed against the cream of the WRC2 crop, he was held back by mechanical and suspension set-up problems.
“We did struggle with the car in Poland. After we worked out the diff had lost its preload I tried to make setup changes to suit, but each time I think I went in the wrong direction,” he said.
“I head to Finland with a much clearer idea about the setup I want to run with, so testing on Monday will be crucial.”
Pedder admitted he might have been unrealistic about his own performance after Portugal when comparing himself against WRC2 young guns, such as Finns Teemu Suninen and Esapekka Lappi and Swede Pontus Tidemand, all of whom are reportedly being courted by Toyota for a factory WRC drive next season.
“Those guys are driving for their career, they are testing between almost every event and they probably have the latest spec everything, so thinking I can compete at their pace was probably a little bit of me getting ahead of myself. On pace if I can be fifth or sixth then that’s still mighty impressive,” he said.
“Finland is a crazy rally, though. It can be very high attrition, so I’m still aiming for a third or fourth-place finish in WRC2. My aim though is to drive as fast as I can but not really to be looking at the timesheets. I want to be fast and smooth, that’s the aim.
“When people think about Finland they think about the fast stages and that you must need a very stable car that’s stuck to the road, but then you have the jumps so you can’t afford to have a flying brick. It’s a balance, but you really want a car that can change directions at speed.”
Follow Scott Pedder:
Websites: www.scottpedder.com.au and www.wrc.com
Twitter: @scottpeddercom or #scottpedder