Hyundai World Rally Championship driver Hayden Paddon will race in September’s Polaris NZ 1000 offroad endurance race in his home country.
The event, over two days, is modelled on the iconic Baja 1000 and challenges teams to complete 500 km per day over two days of racing in production pine forests in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island.
Paddon will team up with 2015 Polaris NZ 1000 winner and defending champion Ben Thomasen in a two vehicle Polaris RZR XP Turbo team backed by a major local Hyundai dealer.
The race takes place from September 8-10 and fits between Paddon’s WRC commitments.
The diminutive RZR turbo UTV he will race weighs just 679 kg and has a top speed just over 160 km/h. The event pits him against a range of purpose-built offroad racing vehicles including American-built race cars and trucks with V8 power which are capable of up to 200 km/h.
The NZ 1000 has an all-new course for 2017 in forest blocks near Atiamuri, southwest of the geothermal resort town of Rotorua. The course will feature the event’s signature blend of 200 km/h forest roads and tight slippery tracks under the trees. It blends fast rally-style roads with twisty tracks under the forest canopy.
In 2015, driving a naturally aspirated Polaris RZR1000, Thomasen was the first driver to win the event in a UTV.
Race organisers have also confirmed their first international entry: Australian father and son team Roly and Tom Dixon.
The pair are long-standing supporters of the two day, 1000 km event and have in the past come close to winning or standing on the podium several times.
This year they will bring their proven V8 powered Nissan Safari ute, a recent race winner in Australia, in an attempt to once more grab a podium placing.
“We’re approaching this with confident caution. The truck’s ready, Tom’s fast and fit and we will go out with a two-day strategy, aiming to be on the winner’s lap at the end. It’s a mean race to even finish, much less podium, and it can’t be won by going all-out on day one,” said Roly Dixon.
Meanwhile for Polaris, the race is an ultimate test of its RZR ‘side by side’ or UTV race cars. New Zealand head Anton Giacon says the event’s stature is unique in the sport and offers the ultimate test for UTV-class racers.
Having won the 2015 race and also the national championship, Polaris factory team racer Thomasen knows what it takes to be at the finish and says equal measures of preparation, ability, luck and speed are needed.
Organisers have now received full sign-off on the route and pit ‘village’ layout from the forest managers and are carrying out track clearing work to finalise the course.
The 2017 Polaris NZ 1000 will be televised in New Zealand on TV3 and SKY Garage.