After Hayden Paddons surprise win in Rally Argentina, where he stormed down the difficult El Condor stage in an incredible manner, his Norwegian 40 year old Rallying Coach ”Ole from Norway” was one of the persons Hayden thanked for the victory. Ole from Norway’s real name is Ole-Martin Lundefaret, and here we ask him about Hayden Paddon, Ole’s own way in to rallying, and the driving technique he calls Nose End First.
When Hayden Paddon jumped out of his car after winning in Argentina he thanked you personally, how did you connect with him?
I actually made contact with Hayden on Facebook. It was right after Rally Sweden this year. It has been obvious to me for a while that Hayden has a special talent, but I also saw some different things that needed work if he wanted to become a World Champion. Hayden was ready to work with me from the very first message I sent him. That surprised me a bit. Later I learned that there were several people around Hayden, including his co-driver John Kennard, that had read what I had written about the driving technique Nose End First on the forum www.motorsportforums.com. So he already knew a little bit about me.
What exactly have you done with Paddon up until now?
I started by introducing him to the general theory of Nose End First. It is a bit like learning a martial art. This we did trough emails and Skype. Then we went in to more specifics.
When did you realize that your coaching could have an effect?
The first brake trough came in rally Mexico. To learn theory is one thing, putting it to practise is something else. Driving a rally car at full speed is a high stress environment, it can be very difficult to get driver to try new things. Even on tests. I sent Hayden an email during Rally Mexico, and he changed his driving accordingly. I have never seen any driver being able to do this during a rally. And from an email! Then I knew this was going to be something special.
When did you feel Hayden really starting to trust you?
After Rally Mexico we did a debrief. Hayden didn’t understand how Ogier could beat him by that much on power stage. A WRC car consists of about 4.000 parts, and it’s easy for a driver to blame one of them. I told Hayden that it was the driving. That was ”make or brake” for our relationship, because not all drivers handle that kind of honesty. We then walked through that stage metre by metre. And he started to see the same things as me. I think this was his personal brake trough.
So what happened then?
Hayden was doing a rally back home in New Zealand, Rally Otago. This was the first rally we really prepped for. One of the special stages there is quite technical, and Hayden had never done well there, so we researched this extra. Hayden is very humble, so he didn’t expect to win his home event, especially since it was in a totally new built car, Hyundai i20 built by Force Motorsport to fit the AP4 regulations. Well, it all went quite well. Hayden won every proper stage by a huge margin, and ended up winning the rally by over nine minutes! And he set a new stage record on the technical stage. The changes were very visible, so it strengthened my belief that he is special and that our relationship could be equally special.
Then it was Rally Argentina, and a famous victory. The El Condor Power Stage beating Ogier is a classic. How do you remember watching that stage?
I was at my parents flat. My brother, his girlfriend, my daughter, my mother, and my father were there. Already in the first corners I saw that he was doing what we had planned, and then I knew we had it. For me it was very emotional. I used a lot of time to learn this technique, and have spent a lot of time developing the educational model, and there have been so many doubters and nay-sayers. So it was just great to see him not only beating Ogier on one of the most difficult stages in the championship, but doing it by a big margin, and this one a type of stage Hayden has never gone well at. When Hayden thanked me when he got out of the car, well, then I cried of relief and happiness, so thank you, Hayden.
After Argentina, Portugal and Sardinia were very difficult, but Hayden managed to bounce back already in Poland. Could you tell us a little about this?
The preparations for Portugal were very hampered by the success in Argentina. But we still made good progression. That hole in the road was so special, so even though I have thought out a way to minimize that risk in the future, I still liken it to hitting a cow. In prep for Sardinia I made a coaching error in what we were going to focus on, which threw us off the baseline, so the stage times suffered. The off was a recce mistake. Hayden turned all this into something constructive, wanting to work even harder. The pre event test for Rally Poland was the first time I met Hayden in person, and we did some very good work. I also talked to him about the recent happenings to put things in perspective. We were well prepared for Poland, and Hayden’s willingness to work himself out of his misfortunes paid off.
What was your own way in to rallying?
From birth I have been totally mad about cars and motorsport. In 1985, I was 10 years old, my father let me sneak up after bedtime to watch International Motorsport on Super Channel. The flame spitting Group B-cars made an everlasting impression. After that I wanted to become a rally driver, but I was broke and my parents didn’t have much money. I worked as a freelance journalist for a local newspaper and wrote many stories on a local rally driver. To thank me, he let me borrow one of his event cars, an Opel Corsa, and together with his young daughter he was the service crew. My first rally was in 2003. I had done zero testing, the co-driver was just as inexperienced as I were. Before the first stage I was so nervous that I threw up and after finishing the first stage I was so happy, that I cried.
What about your own rally career?
After being sent to jail for speeding I knew motorsport was maybe a better place to unleash the need for speed. After my first rally in the Corsa I ended up buying that car. Then a Volvo Original, then a Group H Volvo, which turned out to be an expensive affair. To cut it short I basically managed to do about every mistake you can do in the sport of rallying. Both in terms of driving, in terms of what car to drive, how to straighten out the logistics, how to best manage it financially, you know, EVERY mistake that it’s possible to make. On top of that I had more speed than knowledge, so I ended up crashing a lot.
Could you tell us a little about your general background?
From early on, I wanted to become a car designer. I studied Industrial Design at the university, but then got an offer of a dream job at Norway’s biggest car magazine Autofil. Through that I got to do many cool things like driving a Citroën Xsara WRC, and also sitting in the passenger seat with Sebastien Loeb. I met many drivers, and through testing Porsches I also met my all time favourite driver, Walter Röhrl. All the time I was thinking about driving, and driving technique, reading every story and book I came about on the subject. I also asked every one of these famous drivers about the secret of going fast. So that started my journey.
How did you learn about this Nose End First technique?
As I said I talked to a lot of drivers, but none of them, not even Loeb, could tell me the secret of being fast – in words that I understood. Through my brother I was introduced to Olav Bodilsen, he had studied rally technique for over 35 years. I immediately understood that he knew the answer, I just didn’t understand what he was talking about. So he spent four years with me, being my mentor in Nose End First, it was almost daily and I thought about this 24 hours a day, still do. Then I spent a lot of time developing an educational model, and tested this in 2014 on a young Norwegian rally talent called Sindre Furuseth. And we made big steps.
What should we call you – driving technique advisor?
Yes you can call me that, but it depends on what work I do. For Hayden I am also more of a general coach. But the main focus is of course on driving and driving technique. Rally analysist, or rally coach maybe. Swedish journalist Tommy Svensson called me a speed coach, and I thought that title sounded quite cool. But I am not so focussed on personal titles, I just want to win the World Rally Championship and end the French driver domination, and that’s my plan with Hayden.
What exactly is the service that you can offer to rally drivers?
I teach drivers the driving technique called Nose End First. This technique is based on analysis of all the greats, and is the driving technique that has the best speed to risk ratio. When I talk about risk, I mean the risk of losing time, having a puncture or having an off, the risk of going off the perfect line. You can’t win the world championship in rallying without driving Nose End First, at least when you have to drive against a Loeb or an Ogier. Teaching this technique, both in theory and practice, and also learning rally drivers how to develop their pacenotes, and also teach them analyzing is the core of what I do. And from that base I want drivers to make logical decisions in regards to set up, tactics, etc. Nose End First is very much about thinking logically.
What tools do you use to teach this technique to drivers?
Well, that depends a lot on the driver and what is the best learning methods for him or her. To teach the theory, if we don’t meet, I use emails and Skype. If we are working on driving lines and pace notes I use a normal road car. Also for a lot of the driving I use a normal road car on the road – not over the speed limit or anything – because there is so much good learning you can get from that. And in rally driving I use a Polaris RZR UTV on forest roads, it’s excellent for teaching. I also have a four seated rally car, a MINI Countryman. But to be a good teacher you have to adjust your teaching method to the student, so I try to do that as best as possible.
How do you watch rallying to do your analysing?
I have watched about 5.000 hours of onboards in a very analytical fashion, so I can watch a stage or a section in many different ways. But it is of course essential to split it up in the correct way. On top of watching onboards, I do analyses of drivers, I also watch a lot of them to keep learning. I always try to discover if it’s something new or interesting, or what the driver is doing that really doesn’t work very well. On top of the ”base line” I have also started to collect a special ”box of tricks”, this is where drivers do something different than the basic Nose End First, but that works well against the stop watch. To date I have about 20 of these combinations, and the number is rising.
Can you give any tips for an interested rally fan, what things he/she could look at to understand how different driving techniques influence the outcome?
Yes, try to be as analytical as you can. Start by splitting up the corner in entry, mid and exit, and also see how it fits in a section. Think about that we are dealing with the laws of physics. And watch a lot!
If you could coach a young talent, what would be the key things you would point out?
That would be to learn him or her the basic theory and then to build pace notes around that. Then to drive a stage in the planned way and then to analyze it. On top of that, to coach on mental preparations, where controlling expectations is probably the most important.
Rallying has changed a lot the last 30 years, has the key principles in driving technique changed too?
No. The laws of physics are still the same. If the car is old or new, front wheel drive, rear wheel drive, or four wheel drive, the basics are the same. But the engineers in rallying are incredible, so the cars of course develop. And altough they do this in all areas, they have especially developed in the quality and travel of the suspension, and in the grip of tires, and in the way they can take a huge amount of punishment. You can take a lot more liberties with a modern WRC car compared to an 1990´s group A car. But the game is still to be as fast as possible from A to B, and to do this with the best speed vs. risk ratio. So if you take the great masters like Röhrl, Mäkinen, Loeb or Ogier, you could put them in any car in any era, and they would still be fighting on top with basically the same driving technique.
What do you think is the biggest difference between modern and old time rally driving?
Well, first I would say that some of the most important driving technique developments happened in the 1960´s, 1970´s and 1980´s. All the modern techniques are just evolutions of that. What was so important is that back in those days there where really not a lot you could adjust on the car, so the driver needed to adjust. And this is something a lot of the modern rally drivers could learn from. Because in the end of the day, the most important part of a rally car sits between the steering wheel and the seat. And it’s more important for the drivers to develop themselves, than to try to be engineers developing the car. The engineers can do that.
So if you should pick an historic rally car for modern drivers to try to adjust to, what would it be?
Definitely Saab 96. In my mind, maybe the most important car in rally history when we think of driving technique. It had a not too powerful engine, it was far out in front, and front wheel drive. If you didn’t adjust to that, you would think of it as an understeering dog. But if you used it to your advantage, as it actually was, you would beat rear wheel rally cars with twice the power. Today one of the problems is that there are so many options in the settings, so you could adjust the settings of a rally car to a driver, even though he or she is not driving with the optimum technique. But the aim should be to adjust the driver to a car that is closer to the optimum.
In your mind, how early do you need to start rallying to become a world champion?
A very good question! Look at Loeb and Ogier. It’s more important to learn and understand speed and what is fast against the stopwatch compared to what feels fast in the car. So alpine skiing is for example a very good way into rallying. Just look at Kris Meeke at 37, he still has the best years ahead of him.
Have you been contacted by other drivers after good display of your talent through Paddon?
Yes, I have had several interesting requests, also from top WRC drivers. But these things are not settled yet, so we will see what the future brings. My main target now is to help Hayden Paddon reach his goal of becoming a World Rally Champion, something I believe he will.