Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard are looking forward to competing in this weekend’s opening round of the New Zealand Rally Championship, Rally Otago, in their brand-new, New Zealand-built i20 rally car.
A full-time driver in the World Rally Championship, Paddon continues to support New Zealand rallying and recently formed a new partnership with Hyundai New Zealand to launch the first-ever New Zealand-developed Hyundai rally car. The partnership sees Paddon and Kennard contest two rounds of the New Zealand Rally Championship – Otago and Whangarei – in the 1.8-litre, turbocharged Hyundai i20 rally car which was built and developed in conjunction with well-known rally driver and fabricator Andrew Hawkeswood of Force Motorsport before returning to their WRC duties. The car’s chassis has been built to AP4 (Asia Pacific) regulations and, in the future, may be used by other Kiwi drivers and co-drivers.
Of this weekend’s 40th running of Rally Otago, Paddon says the Dunedin-based event is one of his favourite rallies in the world.
“It’s always good to come back here and get out some great stages,” Paddon says. “There are more public road stages this year, not so many forestry stages and quite a lot of stages we haven’t done before so it’s always nice to add the challenges of new stages to an event we know well.”
The schedule to complete the new Hyundai i20 rally car has been tight. “We’ve had only one small test last week so there will be a lot of development work happening throughout the rally. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep on top of the small problems which are sure to eventuate with a brand-new car fresh out of the box. Thursday morning’s shakedown session is another opportunity for a quick run.”
Paddon says his primary expectations of his first rally in New Zealand since competing in the classic category of this rally last year are: “Firstly to enjoy ourselves and, secondly, to develop the car. We’ve got a long-term project with Hyundai with this car so we want to start getting it sorted for the future for other rallies that we’re doing and potentially other rallies that other drivers are doing in the car.
“At the moment, results aren’t important for us here. It’s about going out and doing our thing and enjoying ourselves. From a personal perspective, we don’t have to prove anything. We’re here to help this project for the long term.”
Paddon and Kennard are the number one seeded crew and along with the other top five seeded drivers, Paddon will get to choose his road position for day one during Friday evening’s ceremonial start activities.
The programme for the two-day rally, which is celebrating its 40th annual running this year, includes shakedown and reconnaissance on Thursday, more reconnaissance on Friday morning, a motorshow, rally car display and the ceremonial start in Dunedin’s Octagon on Friday evening. Saturday’s competitive stages return to the fast public roads west of Oamaru including a stage not run for 30 years and the return of the iconic high country Danseys Pass road last run in this direction in 2010. Saturday concludes with a super special street stage in downtown Dunedin. Sunday’s itinerary takes competitors and spectators to an array of fast roads near Middlemarch, and the classically ‘Rally Otago’-style Waipori Gorge and Kuri Bush stages. The rally’s competitive stages total over 273 kilometres.
A key component of Paddon’s partnership with Hyundai New Zealand is the involvement of students from the Pinnacle Programme, a mentoring programme for talented, passionate teenagers 15-18 years old. Matthew Mallett, a mechanical student from Hamilton’s Wintec, arrives on Friday night to spend the two days of the rally working with the service crew on Paddon’s car.
Andy Sinclair, general manager of Hyundai New Zealand, is excited to see the new partnership get into the action at Rally Otago this weekend.
“This is a wonderful new phase of our partnership with Hayden,” says Sinclair. “To see our new i20 rally car in action in the hands of Hayden and John on the best gravel rally roads in the world, running under the Hyundai New Zealand Rally Team banner, will be fantastic for everyone at Hyundai New Zealand and our dealer network.”