Video: New Zealand’s top rally driver Hayden Paddon has announced the details of his 2011 Production World Rally Championship (PWRC) campaign and the formation of the New Zealand World Rally Team
Paddon has formed what is essentially the first New Zealand world rally team since Possum Bourne. The new team is run by Hayden Paddon Rallysport Global Ltd, the company formed by Paddon and his supporters late in 2010.
The goal is simple: to win the 2011 PWRC title.
“There has been a phenomenal amount of hard work by many people to put this campaign together,” said the two-time New Zealand rally champion at the team’s launch at a special fundraising dinner in Timaru on 22 January. “While we are not over the finish line yet in terms of the budget, we are well on our way and will continue to work on the required funds throughout the year.”
Not only does Paddon’s 2011 campaign represent the first time a New Zealand team has put together a full PWRC campaign, it’s also got a major twist for the long-time Mitsubishi driver.
“While it’s no secret that we wanted to get back overseas and win the PWRC title this year, what may surprise many is our switch of cars to form a partnership with rally giant, Subaru,” says Paddon.
Paddon finished third in the production car class – a feeder series to the World Rally Championship – on debut in 2010. That campaign had the backing of funding and a professionally-prepared vehicle from the Pirelli Star Driver scholarship that Paddon won in 2009, as well as funding from Paddon’s own sponsors and a Rally New Zealand Rising Stars driver development award.
“Last year’s opportunities with the Pirelli Star Driver programme were amazing, and to follow that up by being able to put our own global programme together is fantastic. We were offered an opportunity to run with Ralliart Italy again this year in a Mitsubishi, but after being approached by a Subaru representative, we decided to make the change as we feel that there are greater future possibilities with Subaru.
“The move to Subaru will be a big change for us, especially considering how much we have achieved in a series of Mitsubishis. In saying that, I am confident that driving the Subaru will give us a better chance of winning the championship as they are very strong, well balanced cars. At the end of the day, as long as it has four wheels and a steering wheel, I’m happy! As a youngster I was always a huge Subaru fan, and now to get a chance to drive one in world competition fulfils a childhood dream.”
Running a latest spec STR11 Subaru Impreza N4 for Paddon and his co-driver for the past five seasons, Blenheim’s John Kennard, is highly-regarded Belgium team, Symtech Racing.
Adapting to the Subaru is another new challenge for the 23-year-old who demonstrated a consistent ability to learn, improve and deliver strong performances in every event he contested last year. Paddon sees the change of car as simply another opportunity to lift his game to a whole new level and challenge for the PWRC class victory.
“I had the chance to have a small test with a Subaru last November while I was in the UK. My initial impressions were good and I was impressed by the handling and balance of the car. Before our season gets underway at Rally Portugal at the end of March, we will have a comprehensive two-day test with Symtech to learn the car and get it dialled in for my driving style. I have no doubts that as soon as we start the first stage in Portugal that we will pick up from where we left off last year.”
“Hayden’s choice of a Subaru is one we are all celebrating throughout the New Zealand dealer team,” says Wallis Dumper, managing director of Subaru of New Zealand, who initiated Paddon’s discussions regarding the move to Subaru.
“While Hayden’s sporting challenges take place offshore, we are proud to have helped in our own small way in supporting this campaign. I am sure every Kiwi will follow the black and silver fern-emblazoned Impreza with interest as Hayden takes on the rest of the world.
“Many will recall how with the invisible advantages of our All-Wheel-Drive, the late Possum Bourne made his mark on the rally sport world and this assault by Hayden’s team will certainly galvanise the interest of all our customers and our independently owned and operated Subaru dealerships throughout New Zealand. Rallying may not be every person’s favourite sport but if you are a Kiwi at heart, you just have to give these guys support.”
Paddon has nominated the following six PWRC events: Vodafone Rally de Portugal (24-27 March), Rally Argentina (26-29 May), Neste Oil Rally Finland (28-31 July), Rally Australia (8-11 Sept), Rally de Espana (20-23 Oct) and Wales Rally GB (10-13 Nov).