Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard are now three-time New Zealand rally champions, having won the 2013 New Zealand Rally Championship in a winner-takes-all final at Masterton’s Trust House Racetech Rally Wairarapa.
Paddon and Kennard, from Geraldine and Blenheim respectively, were delighted to win after an intense battle with local stars Richard and Sara Mason – following 136 competitive kilometres on the one0day rally, just 13 seconds divided the long-time rivals.
Paddon reports: “We achieved our objectives by winning the New Zealand Rally Championship and today’s final round of the championship, Rally Wairarapa. This is a great confidence booster as we now prepare for Spain and one of the biggest opportunities we have had to date.”
Paddon heads back to Europe in a few days to prepare for his debut event in a World Rally Car – he and Kennard are entered in the 24 to 27 September running of Rally de Espana as part of the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, driving a Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
It was a hard-fought win for the Kiwi stars who were first on the road, contending with heavy gravel and then Paddon had to don his mechanic’s overalls to assist his crew during the second service of the one-day rally.
“We’re very happy with the result; you can draw a lot of confidence from overcoming the odds – first on the road, diff problems and still taking the win especially as it was such a great battle with Richard Mason and Chris West. Having said that, it was not an easy day so the whole team was very pleased to come through with a victory,” Paddon says.
“Being number one on the road was a huge disadvantage with the amount of dry gravel on the stages, but to counter this, there was also some hanging dust in the still morning conditions which affecting following competitors. We were able to make the most of this and pull out an early 20 second lead.
“We were then able to control the lead for the rest of the day, despite having very little grip and sliding all over the show. To keep things interesting our front diff broke, with two stages before service. Luckily we managed to keep the time loss to a minimum and keep our lead intact. The team then did a great job changing the front diff in 30 minutes at service, which ultimately got us to the end of the rally. John had to explain to some people that came to see me during the service that I was busy working under the car…”
Paddon took two stage wins, Mason five and another former New Zealand champion Chris West also had a stage win during the day’s nine stages.
Paddon pays credit to his long-time crew in playing a vital role in his success at home, having started the year with a complete rebuild of the Evo9 which suffered massive damage at the end of 2011 after Paddon and a guest at his sponsor ride day plunged 200 metres down a cliff off a gravel road closed for the event.
“Our third New Zealand title is special and a huge credit to our team who have done an amazing job all year – right from the rebuild to keeping the car going throughout the year. Also to see our green Stadium Cars Evo9 still competitive with not so many modifications that are allowed in the championship is pleasing.”
Paddon’s focus is already on his WRC debut in Spain. “John and I are looking forward to it very much and we’ll be working very hard over the next three weeks to make sure we can make the most of the opportunity. It’s very exciting but, at the same time, also a lot of pressure to make something good of it.”
Paddon will test the Ford Fiesta RS WRC on asphalt the Monday before Rally Spain. “There will be just one test of around 50 to 70 kilometres, and I’m sure that’s enough time to accustom ourselves to it. The chassis and feeling of it will be very similar to what we know from our S2000 cars so it’s more a matter of getting used to the power and exact tractability of the car.”
Paddon adds: “Ultimately we do want to be in a WRC car next year and with this one-off chance we need to show we can be fast in a WRC car as well to try and open those doors. The goals for the Spanish rally are straightforward: we need to finish, make sure we get as much time behind the wheel as possible and will target key stages to try and show glimpses of speed. We’ll be working hard, doing intensive homework of the Spanish event, physical training and some testing with M-sport to make the most of this opportunity.”
Paddon and his team would like to thank their partners that are helping to make their campaign possible: VINZ, Giltrap Group, PlaceMakers, Z Energy, Stadium Cars, Telecom New Zealand, CP-Carrillo, Saddle Hill Quarries, Heartland Potato Chips, New Balance, Scott Sports, Total Automotive Timaru, Coxy’s 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.