New Zealand’s most successful rally driver Hayden Paddon has put a ‘rain-check’ on his WRC career, and is taking a fresh focus on building his own New Zealand-based team to take into international competition by 2025.
Keeping their minds open to various possibilities, Paddon and his New Zealand based team will now take a fresh approach to the future, knowing that the World Rally Championship will continue to evolve and change in coming years. Their other focus to try to secure the right deal for Paddon to compete in the 2020 running of WRC Rally New Zealand in a WRC car.
“This is not the end,” says Paddon. “It’s more of a rain check, but we have to be realistic. With only eight drivers’ seats in the WRC and having spent the year on the outside, there are limited opportunities at present. So it’s time to take a fresh approach to it all and focus on the building blocks of our own New Zealand team which I’m enjoying more than ever.
“Rally New Zealand is also a priority for 2020 and we will do everything we can to try and make it happen. Competing on roads I know well would give us a good leg-up compared to other competitors and I hope we have a chance to exploit that and fulfil a lifetime goal of trying to win Rally New Zealand.”
Paddon, age 32, is now based in Cromwell at his Paddon Rallysport Group (PRG) headquarters where his team is developing one of the first 100 per cent electric-powered Hyundai rally cars.
“We have already put the building blocks in place with our own New Zealand team and are working hard to develop relevant technology that will come into its own at the pinnacle of the sport in the coming years. The automotive industry and motorsports are changing quickly and we are presently trying to be proactive rather than reactive.
“Our goal is to take a 100 per cent Kiwi team to international competition within five years.”
Paddon’s passion for the sport of rallying is unabated and he’s excited about the potential and possibilities for PRG as a competitive global team.
“I’m still 100 per cent committed and passionate about rallying, and I still want to drive and win. To do that with our own Kiwi team would be incredibly satisfying. The steps to do that are massive but having a good team and supporters around us is key.”
Paddon’s biggest supporter is Hyundai New Zealand, a partnership forged in 2014 and now stronger than ever.
“The relationship we have built with the team at Hyundai New Zealand is truly humbling and one that I’m fully committed to. For them to allow me to compete in a different brand car in 2019 speaks volumes of the strength of their support and belief. Our projects for 2020 and the future remain committed to Hyundai New Zealand.”
Paddon’s successes in world rallying mark him as the Southern Hemisphere’s most successful rally driver and one of the most successful non-European WRC drivers. From his 80 WRC starts, he scored one WRC win, eight podium finishes, and 38 special stage wins with long-time co-driver John Kennard and, for the last 18 months, British co-driver Seb Marshall.
“It has been an amazing 20-year journey to the WRC and an incredible five years driving at the elite level for a manufacturer team. But the opportunities ahead are even greater and the next 20 years excite me even more with the sporting and commercial challenges we are going to tackle head on.”
Over the past year, Paddon’s focus has broadened from the intensity of being a world-class competitor to being a team manager and business owner. With their engineering and development facilities in the Highlands Technology Park beside the Highlands racetrack, Paddon Rallysport runs the Hyundai New Zealand rally programme with their AP4 car, as well as a Hyundai TCR race car. The team’s core project is the development of the EV rally with the first prototype due for public appearance in 2020. With 10 people already on the team, PRG is set to grow each year thanks to commercial investment in their innovative programme.
“Like any new business, the first years are the toughest,” Paddon says. “I see similarities with the financial challenges we face now in business compared to 10 years ago in my driving career. I love a challenge and we have a team of very passionate people involved, so I know we will make the venture and our vision a reality. We have some incredibly exciting times ahead as we forge a new path for motorsport around the world and for New Zealand.
“We also have a diverse motorsport programme ahead for 2020 which will be busier than ever. This will involve four high profile hillclimb events in New Zealand with our 700+bhp monster including a new event we are hosting, the Ben Nevis Station Golden 1200 Hillclimb taking place on 7/8 March We will also compete in several NZRC and APRC events with a focus of the APRC. All this combined with a TCR circuit programme, some sprintcar driving and racing the new Crosskarts that PRG is now importing will make a very full-on year.”
Paddon Rallysport is backed by some amazing New Zealand companies who share Paddon’s vision for the EV rally car programme, including Hyundai New Zealand, YES Power, Bailey Caravans, Ben Nevis Station, Wurth, Pirelli, Z Energy, Pak’nSave, Winmax Brake Pads, and GoPro.
by Kate Gordon-Smith/Relish Communications