World Rally driver Hayden Paddon is back in action on New Zealand roads in one of his favourite events.
The 28-year-old and co-driver John Kennard are set to tackle the Rally of Otago, the opening round of the New Zealand championships, which starts on Saturday.
Paddon will be behind the wheel of the first New Zealand-developed Hyundai rally car.The pair will also contest the Rally of Whangarei in the 1.8-litre, turbocharged i20 rally car in late April.
The manufacturer hopes to create a new partnership to benefit the New Zealand rally sport scene.
Paddon said he was excited to be part of this programme with Hyundai New Zealand.
“We are entering a new phase of our partnership to bring our rally exploits back to New Zealand and to introduce Hyundai New Zealand to the championships.”
“Together, we are all working to provide more opportunities for people in New Zealand rallying and this new car will form a major part of this project while also allowing John and I to, once again, enjoy two of the best rally events and rally roads in the world.”
The new car has been built and developed in conjunction with well-known rally driver and fabricator Andrew Hawkeswood of Force Motorsport.
Its chassis is constructed according to Asia Pacific regulations which Paddon believes will be critical to the future of New Zealand rallying.
“AP4 technical regulations provide for a new, more affordable generation of four-wheel-drive (4WD) turbocharged rally car which is eligible for competition in both national and international events within the Asia Pacific region.”
Paddon said the car is still early in development, but has a lot of potential.
“Like any new formula, it will take a little longer for this car to catch on, but I believe that value for money is the key with this sort of car.”
Paddon said while not at the same level, it has the same design principles and look of a WRC car.
Four stages of the rally are being held close to Oamaru on Saturday, including one named in honour of Paddon, from when he was Production World Rally Champion back in 2011.
Paddon is a four time winner at Otago, matching the efforts of Timaru’s Chris West in the early 2000s.
Mark Leonard was the first Timaru driver to win Otago in 1990 in a Mazda 323.
Leonard will be back at Otago this weekend but in the co-drivers seat with Greg Murphy behind the wheel of a 1979, 2.3 litre Vauxhall Chevette.
Leonard’s father Leo, is a New Zealand saloon car racing great, is the team’s mechanic but the car but because the motor is fuel injected, the Chevette is ineligible for the classic section.
West’s focus this season is the tarmac Targa rallies.