Hayden Paddon, New Zealand’s top rally driver, is doing all he can to ensure he will be able to compete in the FIA World Rally Championship in the second half of the 2013 season.
With long-time co-driver John Kennard alongside, Paddon won the FIA Production World Rally Championship in 2011, making him the highest-placed New Zealand rally driver in the country’s history. Last year the pair competed in the next tier of world rallying, the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship, winning two rounds and 74 per cent of the stages over seven events.
However, so far this year, Paddon and the directors of his management company, Hayden Paddon RallySport Global Ltd (HPRG), have been unable to commit to any WRC competition plans due to the challenges of securing the $1 million budget required to contest the top tier of world rallying.
"Currently, there are certainly several opportunities we can pursue which would see us compete in either a World Rally Car or a Super 2000 car like the Skoda Fabia we used last year," says 25-year-old Paddon from his home in Geraldine.
Paddon adds: "Discussions with current teams continue and we’re also talking with the new vehicle manufacturers currently entering rallying, such as Hyundai.
"There will be increased opportunities over the next 18 months with these new teams, so to give us the best chance of securing a supported drive in 2014, it is important we compete in 2013 to be involved in the driver selection processes. We need to showcase our speed and results on selected events this year – which I know we can do when we get back into competition."
HPRG director Peter Swaney says: "Hayden is one of a small group of four or five young drivers in the world with the necessary experience to step into a factory team environment. He’s also one of the fastest and we’re working hard to secure the budget which will help us confirm how and where Hayden can next compete in the WRC, but we need help from the New Zealand public."
Paddon says he and the company directors are working on two key options.
"One option is SWRC, which is now called the WRC-2 championship and covers four classes: Group N, R4, R5 and S2000. You can nominate any six rallies, so we could still do a full WRC-2 championship campaign in the second part of this year, starting from Finland in August," Paddon says.
"The other option is to select a handful of events to contest in a WRC car. Again there are current offers on the table for this.
"Both options offer benefits career-wise and require a similar budget. Naturally I would love to drive a WRC car, but from a career perspective maybe we are better off in a S2000 car, aligning ourselves with the other younger drivers and, of course beating them."
Paddon’s support team has set up a fundraising page on his website www.haydenpaddon.com for anyone wishing to contribute and, as a nation, work together to help put Paddon’s New Zealand World Rally Team back on the world stage this year where he flies the flag for New Zealand.
"The fundraiser allows anyone with one dollar to one million dollars to be involved in some shape or form The New Zealand public has supported us a lot – something we really appreciate because every little bit counts. Any and all help goes a long way to getting us back in the WRC this year and help my dream of being the first New Zealand to secure the title of world rally champion."
In the meantime, Paddon and Kennard are getting back into competition mode by contesting the first few events of the 2013 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship.
"Now we have successfully rebuilt and competed in our championship-winning EVO 9 rally car, it will be great to get some seat time alongside John, so, as a minimum, we’ll be competing in the DriveSouth Rally of Otago in April and the International Rally of Whangarei in May – two of my favourite events," says Paddon.
Paddon and his New Zealand rally campaign is supported by PlaceMakers, Z Energy, Stadium Cars, Saddle Hill Quarries, New Balance, Scott Sports, Total Automotive, Coxys Panel Repairs, Resene, All About Signs, Reaction Racing, In-Tune Automotive, Racetech, Endless Brakes, Nichibo and Team Ralliart.