Hayden Paddon drives a state-of-the-art Hyundai i20 WRC hatch on the world stage, but he has been reunited with his first love, a Mini he rallied as a 14-year-old.
Paddon had to sell the Mini to finance his first sojourn into Europe, but has regretted it ever since.
A message from a friend advised him it was on Trade Me and Paddon pounced.
“I didn’t have an option at the time as we didn’t have much to sell, but I regretted ever since.”
Paddon said since he sold it it had only moved between sheds.
The seller had attracted plenty of interest because of the car’s provenance, but Paddon said he didn’t pay a premium. He bought it back off the person he sold it to in what he described as a pretty good deal.
“I sold him one and I got back two.”
However, he said the Mini would need a complete rebuild, from the ground up.
“It’s a project I will get around to sometime.”
Paddon wasn’t old enough to drive a car on the road back in 2002 but that didn’t stop his debut at the New Zealand Club Championships.
The then-14-year-old helped his father, Chris, build the 1300cc Mini, which included a three-quarter race kit.
At the time the Timaru Boys’ High School student said he liked the adrenalin rush of rallying.
His favourite event was the hill climb because of the effort required on the corners and the speed involved.
Paddon originally started out with go-karts as a six-year-old and progressed to cars at the age of 12. Back then he dreamed of one day making it all the way to the World Rally Championship.
“I guess it’s taken about 14 years of hard work,” he said.
Paddon has announced himself with some style, with a sixth-place finish in Australia last month. He is negotiating a contract extension with World Rally Championship newcomer Hyundai Motorsport.
“Australia was good, it was only my fifth time in a WRC car, up against guys who have raced upward of 100.”
Paddon was pleased with the improvements he was making, but acknowledged it takes time at the top.
“Sometimes it is frustrating that it doesn’t come straight away, but the best way to improve is time in the seat.”
Paddon hopes the deal will see him race between 10 and the full complement of 13 rallies in 2015.
He leaves for Europe tomorrow for testing, with Rally Spain at the end of the month.