New Zealand rally hero and Hyundai Motorsport driver Hayden Paddon has been appointed the official ambassador for Rally New Zealand as the local organising team increase their focus on a return of the New Zealand event to the World Rally Championship calendar.
The partnership announced today by Rally New Zealand chairman Peter Johnston, will see Paddon act as official ambassador for Rally New Zealand and work with the organising team at both a local and international level.
The 28 year old from Geraldine who recently signed a new deal to drive for Hyundai Motorsport for the next three years, would love the opportunity to compete for honours on a home round of the World Championship and is supporting the return of Rally New Zealand.
“New Zealand has the best gravel rally roads in the world and provides an amazing spectacle. The Rally New Zealand team has also proven in the past they run a world class event so I am proud to be an ambassador and support its return,” commented Paddon.
The young Kiwi’s rise to the top of World Rallying has been eagerly followed by New Zealand motorsport fans and Paddon has developed a large supporter base both locally and aboard as a result. Rally New Zealand Chairman Peter Johnston says his team are pulling out all the stops to provide an opportunity for the New Zealand public to witness a Kiwi driver competing for honours at their home event
“The support for Hayden is immense and we have no doubt having Hayden driving the Hyundai Motorsport World Rally Car in New Zealand would draw spectator numbers to the event unseen before in its history. To appoint Hayden as our ambassador and have his support in sharing what makes Rally New Zealand a special event is a great partnership,” stated Mr Johnston.
Paddon echoes that sentiment and is excited at the prospect of Rally New Zealand’s return. “There is no doubt New Zealanders are passionate about their motorsport so it would be fantastic to repay that support by competing at our home event in front of all the Kiwi fans. The Paddon army would well and truly be out in force,” stated Paddon.
Rally New Zealand was last held as a round of the FIA World Rally Championship in 2012 when the event alternated on the calendar with Rally Australia. Under an agreement reached when Rally New Zealand withdrew from the impractical ‘year on year off’ structure that was in place from 2008 until 2012, Rally New Zealand was due to return to the calendar in 2016 but the addition of new events to the calendar has seen this delayed.
New Zealand has a proud 35 year history at world rally level and in fact was the first event in the Southern Hemisphere to join the World Rally Championship back in 1977 when Finnish Rally star Ari Vatanen entered into local rallying legend with his drive in a Ford Escort. Rallying greats Carlos Sainz and the late Colin McRae were both three time winners in the 1990’s while recent years have seen some of the closest competition in World Championship history, including the 2007 event where Finnish driver Marcus Gronholm defeated nine times world champion Sebastien Loeb of France by 0.3 seconds after three days and over 300 kilometres of competition.