World rally championship-winning team-mates Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are looking forward to getting back into competition at Drivesouth Rally Otago when the highly-regarded event gets underway on 6 April.
Geraldine-based Paddon and Blenheim-based Kennard continue to work on plans to compete in the FIA World Rally Championship later this year. In the meantime, they have confirmed their entry for the first three rounds of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship which starts with the Otago event over the weekend of 6 and 7 April.
Paddon pilots the same car, the Stadium Cars Evo9, in which he and Kennard have twice won the domestic series. Having spent more than 1,000 hours this year rebuilding the Evo, which was extensively damaged in a massive crash at the end of 2011, Paddon says the ability to build the car to different regulations under this year’s NZRC rules helps keep things interesting.
“We are proud to confirm partnerships with Stadium Cars, Z Energy, Dunedin-based Saddle Hill Quarries, PlaceMakers along with the help and generosity of many others who are making our New Zealand campaign possible,” says Paddon.
“We’ve rebuilt the Stadium Cars Evo9 to R4 rules and will run in the four-wheel-drive Super Rally category against drivers like Richard Mason, Emma Gilmour and Andrew Hawkeswood where it’s virtually anything goes under current NZRC regs. In R4 spec, the car is lighter and faster with different suspension and has further chassis developments and a bigger turbo restrictor. It’s interesting to have the opportunity to learn and develop this car in its new configuration, alongside the work we’re doing to get back into WRC competition.”
Paddon says he’ll use Dunlop tyres for the three NZRC events – April’s Rally Otago, the International Rally of Whangarei in May and June’s Daybreaker Rally in Manawatu.
Paddon and Kennard have won both the Otago and Whangarei events twice, but have never contested the Daybreaker event.
“The best thing is that I’m back on the road, getting seat time with John. Otago and Whangarei are two of my favourite events and it’s always fun to go to new events like the one-day Daybreaker.
“It’s great to have our old team back together and for Otago, some of the stages are only about an hour from home in Geraldine, so that’s pretty cool.”
For Kennard, who’s co-driven for Paddon since 2006, he’s simply happy to be getting back in a car with Paddon.
“I haven’t even been near a rally car since Spain last year, so that’s too long!” says Kennard. “It’s going to be great, back competing at the sharp end of the NZRC in a complying car, although the class now contains some weird and wonderful machinery compared to last time we were there. Hayden and I are both keen to see where we sit in relation to our regular sparring partners of a few years ago and we’re really looking forward to competing back on some great, fast New Zealand stages – they really are the best in the world and very enjoyable.”
Paddon says: “It’s also fantastic to have the support from our New Zealand partners like PlaceMakers and Stadium Cars. They are all very keen for me to be competing locally and I’m very happy to be doing so.
“Of course the target is to win and I understand the expectation that victory is in our grasp. However, with this new Super Rally category, most competitors are starting from scratch with new cars or significant componentry changes on their existing cars. It’s a reasonably level playing field from that perspective, but there’s huge variation in the cars in terms of engine sizes, suspension and much more, so I think it’s going to come down to which drivers can learn about and adapt most quickly to their new cars and the reliability of untested componentry.”
The Stadium Cars Evo9 ran perfectly in a South Canterbury rally sprint at end of February. Since then Paddon has continued working on further developments and fine-tuning, and used part of a recent corporate ride day for testing.
Paddon is one of 18 competitors registered for the 4WD Super Rally category and starts the event with one day’s worth of reconnaissance on Friday 5 April. Sixteen stages totalling approximately 270 competitive kilometres follow on Saturday and Sunday, with stages primarily to the northwest of Dunedin varying in length from seven to 30 kilometres.
Rally fans can catch the rally action on TV3’s Sunday afternoon CRC Motorsport show and with repeat screenings on SKY TV.
Paddon and his New Zealand rally campaign is supported by PlaceMakers, Z Energy, Stadium Cars, Saddle Hill Quarries, New Balance, Scott Sports, Total Automotive Timaru, Coxys Panel Repairs, Resene, All About Signs, Reaction Racing, In-Tune Automotive, Racetech, Chicane, Endless Brakes, Nichibo, Choice at Team Ralliart, Andar The Front Store, MCA Suspension, Tyre General, Dunlop, Pope Print, Bluebridge Ferry, ION, and 1Group.