Hayden Paddon, New Zealand’s top rally driver, heads back to Europe in July having confirmed his entry in two FIA World Rally Championship events.
Paddon and Blenheim-based co-driver John Kennard will compete in Neste Oil Rally Finland and ADAC Rallye Deutschland, both in August, using a Skoda Fabia prepared by Austria-based, Baumschlager Rallye & Racing (BRR), the same type of car and team with which the Kiwi pair completed the second part of the 2012 season.
Paddon has also officially entered the WRC’s main support championship called WRC2, formerly the Super 2000 World Rally Championship, which incorporates the Group N, R4, R5 and S2000 categories. The only New Zealander to ever win a world rally championship title, the 2011 FIA Production World Rally Championship, Paddon still has the opportunity to contest and win the new-look WRC2 Championship after rule changes which sees WRC2 competitors contest any seven WRC events of their choosing and count their best six results.
Paddon and his New Zealand-based management company continue to work on commercial partnerships to enable Paddon and Kennard to contest four further events in addition to Finland and Germany already confirmed. From August, there are six WRC events still to run for the season.
“It’s amazing to be back in the WRC,” says Paddon from his home in Geraldine in New Zealand’s South Island. “It may only be two events at this stage, but after last year I am more determined than ever to put the record straight and showcase what I know we can do – to be the fastest.”
“I know we can beat all the other competitors in WRC2, and there are a lot of very good drivers there. It won’t be easy, but the target will be to win, and they are both events that I enjoy.”
Paddon and Kennard have contested the massively popular, high speed Finnish Rally each year since 2010 and won the production car category there in 2011. The pair contested the German event in 2010 as one of the Pirelli Star Drivers.
“It’s also going to be great to be reunited with the team at BRR, who all did a fantastic job with John and me last year. They prepare and run a very good car for us. The S2000-spec Skoda is a dream to drive and I’m counting down the next two months already before we get in the car.”
Paddon says the team’s priority throughout 2013 has been to secure the funding to get him back to Europe and competing in events which showcase his talents and speed.
“We continue to work very hard on securing a full-time opportunity in the WRC for 2014. Events such as Finland and Germany, which I’ve contested and done well in previously, help us get the attention of the management of the new WRC teams and hopefully allow us to process the discussions we’ve been having with various people.”
While in New Zealand for the first six months of 2013, Paddon has not lessened the intensity of his fitness training and professional development. He’s also made the most of every opportunity to get behind the wheel of a rally car including a fine New Zealand Rally Championship victory with Kennard in April’s Rally Otago using their rebuilt Lancer Evo rally car. Later this month, the pair head to the International Rally of Whangarei to take on competitors in the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, including the WRC2 winner at April’s Rally Portugal Finnish driver Esapekka Lappi driving a Skoda Fabia.
‘We will be fitter, stronger, faster and more prepared than ever to make the most of this opportunity,” Paddon promises. “It is a hard game with the financial demands required, but we are so close and now we have to step it up. It’s been many years since there have been so many opportunities for drivers with new manufacturers entering the sport, so now is the time!”