AFTER 12 YEARS AND 109 RALLY STARTS ALONGSIDE HAYDEN PADDON, JOHN KENNARD HUNG UP HIS CO-DRIVING OVERALLS EARLIER THIS YEAR, AND IN THE RUN UP NESTE RALLY FINLAND, HYUNDAI PAID TRIBUTE TO HIS CONTRIBUTION TO BOTH PADDON’S CAREER AND THE TEAM.
Finland is where Kennard contested his first WRC event as a co-driver, at the 1985 1000 Lakes Rally, and Hyundai marked this by revealing a replica of the Toyota Starlet he and driver Brent Rawstron campaigned on that first event.
“It was never the plan for me to co-drive on the rally, I’d never co-driven in my life, but Brent’s original co-driver kept getting sick reading the notes and so I stepped in,”the New Zealander told WRC.com.
“We finished as the highest-placed non Scandinavian crew, which got us enough prize money to do the RAC Rally later that year. The team have a done a terrific job with the replica – it looks really, really close!”
While Kennard’s seat in Paddon’s i20 is now occupied by British co-driver Seb Marshall, he continues to work with the team as Hayden’s route note crew on tarmac rallies, but he admitted to feeling mixed emotions about taking a step back.
“After 12 years as Hayden’s co-driver, it was hard to lever myself out of that seat for the last time – which turned out to be in Argentina. But our deal has always been that I help Hayden in the most effective way possible and to have been his co-driver for so long, has been incredibly fulfilling and rewarding.”
Kennard rates their 2016 WRC win in Argentina as a career high in terms of results. “But overall, you’d have to say starting to work with a very young, driver who’d never even contested a national rally and, with the help of an incredible team of people, to now see that driver at the highest levels of the WRC, something that most people said was impossible for a Kiwi driver, is far and away our biggest achievement.”
Paddon said: “It has been a huge pleasure to work with John and it’s difficult moving forward with John not in the car as he has played such a big part in everything. It’s crazy to think how it started those 12 years ago and how far we have come. We have conquered so many highs and lows together and created lifelong memories.”