Geraldine’s Hayden Paddon has become the second successive New Zealander to beat international competition in the Pirelli Star Driver regional award for the million dollar opportunity to contest select events in the 2010 World Rally Championship.
Scoring points toward one of five positions offered annually by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) and tyre manufacturer Pirelli, the 22-year old was confirmed the Asia Pacific region winner by a judging panel after the opening day of Repco Rally Australia.
The position provides a fully funded drive worth approximately NZ$1 million toward contesting six rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship next year.
Paddon and co-driver John Kennard were one of five teams entered to the Asia Pacific regional final, topping the time sheets for five of the eight speed tests held over roads on Australia’s east coast in north-east New South Wales. Tested only on the opening stages of the three-day event, competitors were also judged on their skills away from the driving seat.
Present for the announcement, General Manager of Rally New Zealand Paul Mallard said the atmosphere was empowering at having another Kiwi selected to compete internationally.
“Hayden, backed by his team, did an exceptional job. It’s very pleasing for Rally New Zealand and New Zealand at large that, another of our drivers has been selected ahead of other international young talent,” he said from the event Service Park at Kingscliff where the judges’ decision was announced.
“It shows the strength of our national championship and its competition. At this point right now, the two leading drivers in our national championship are placed directly behind the big factory teams and ahead of the best of the world and Australian championships in the production Group N category,” he said of the leader board positions.
“Hayden is showing extreme maturity having secured this opportunity, by continuing to stay focussed on his job of staying at the front of the pack. He is continually improving his performance to be a consistent front-runner – even here on foreign roads against international competition.”
“It’s all a bit numbing at the moment,” said Paddon at being officially notified. “We’re basically in to the second stage of what we came here for. We came here for two things; one was to 100% concentrate on the Pirelli Star Driver award up until lunch-time on the first day. Once that arrived we made a plan we were going to concentrate on rally results. So we split the whole event in two basically. Now we’re concentrating on the rally so things haven’t had a chance to sink home to be honest.”
Paddon secured the opportunity to contest the Australian based regional final when he won the NAC Insurance International Rally of Whangarei in early June – one of the seven qualifying events feeding the final for the Asia and Pacific region.
Following its inaugural season, the programme launched by the FIA and Pirelli funds five young drivers – one from each of the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions and two from Europe. Current recipient, Brookby’s Mark Tapper, has been driving a Ralliart Italia Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X – with two events left to complete this season.
World Rally Championship commission president Morrie Chandler emphasises the importance the award has for drivers from the Asia Pacific region.
“Most of the time, particularly from countries outside of Europe, it is really hard to break your way into the European scene – so the whole of this objective is to make it possible for drivers outside of Europe to contest in the Production World Rally Championship,” he said.
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