The Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout finalists will be assessed over the two days by Paddon, rally driver Reece Jones, talented teens Pinnacle Programme leader Bernice Mene, Newshub senior sports reporter Shaun Summerfield and former Rally New Zealand chairman Chris Carr.
“We want all finalists to take as much as they can away from the shootout weekend,” says Paddon. “We are not looking for the fastest driver – we are looking for someone with that X factor who has the ability to learn and develop into a leading rally driver, both nationally and internationally, while representing the Hyundai brand.”
From: Hawke’s Bay
Bayley, who’s an Engineering apprentice in Hamilton, is very excited to have such a cool opportunity. He has already had several years experience rally competing at National level in his 2WD R2 Fiesta, often finishing in the Top 10 overall.
Bayley is very relaxed about the shootout, with the mind-set of just enjoy the experience, learn as much as possible and not let the pressure get to him. He will have Lisa Hudson sat in the car with him again for this weekend.
The main thing Bayley wants to get from this opportunity is how to develop his mental fitness. He’s looking to find ways to stay 100% focused, especially during the longer 20-30 minute stages.
He’s very grateful to Hyundai and Hayden Paddon who have done an amazing job putting together this program.
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Thomson, who’s an apprentice panel beater by day, says: “My one goal in life is to make it to the World Rally Championship, so I’m really hoping to take a lot away from this weekend – not just the driving skills, but also the planning and preparation needed for a future offshore campaign utilising Hayden’s experiences, knowledge and learning skills for the steps needed to create a future in international rallying. If I don’t win, I still take an array of new skills and knowledge to help in my NZRC campaign in 2017, and for my future career in rallying.”
With a background in dirt track speedway, Thomson was a rookie driver in the 2016 New Zealand Rally Championship. Despite some mechanical challenges which put Thomson and 15-year-old co-driver Amy Hudson out of two of the five rounds, Thomson finished second in the rookie driver championship and a very credible third place in the two-wheel-drive (2WD) category – a result he rates as his biggest motorsport success to date.
“I’m looking forward to learning from New Zealand best Hayden Paddon and his co-driver John Kennard,” says Thomson of the shootout. “The things I learn will help me grow in knowledge and skills in this great sport. This is a fantastic opportunity to participate in a lifetime dream; a great programme for young drivers to learn and improve in their skills. Thanks to Hyundai NZ and Hayden for this opportunity and selecting me as one of the top five finalists in the shootout.”
Thomson will have Hudson alongside him for the in-car section. “We both love rallying and work well together in the car. We also both have the same dream of getting into the WRC and making a career out of this amazing sport. I can’t wait to drive the AP4 car; they are really great cars and the Hyundai i20 looks amazing. I’ve always wanted to drive one so will be a really good opportunity to get behind the wheel and experience a whole new level of rally car.”
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An area manager for an irrigation company, Quantock is relatively new to rally competition, with 2016 his first full season, but he’s been around the sport for many years with father Dave also a rally driver. Like Paddon, he started in grass carts and since his switch to rallying last year, has quickly demonstrated some skill behind the wheel of his Mitsubishi Evo, finishing second overall in the 2016 Mainland Rally Series as well as taking second place at both the 2016 Hanmer and Spring rallies.
Quantock is aiming for his first rally win next year and knows the opportunity to learn during the shootout can only benefit his future rally aspirations.
“Hayden inspired us to enter the Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout as we have always looked up to him as a role model and want to follow in his footsteps,” Quantock says. “We saw the Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout as a great opportunity to be in an environment surrounded by people with years of knowledge to learn from. As we are still new to the sport this is a great opportunity for us to take on board advice and tips from someone who is one of the best in the world and has been down a similar path and made it to the top.”
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Summerfield, who’s an apprentice electrician by day, says: “It’s always been a dream of mine to be a professional rally driver and to be able to spend time with such a great crew like Hayden and John [Kennard, Paddon’s co-driver] will be priceless. You just can’t let these sorts of opportunities go by, so it was an obvious decision to enter the shootout and we were delighted that we were selected as a finalist. Watching Hayden and John do what they have done in the World Rally Championship so far has been mind-blowing and it proves that if you work hard and never give up you can reach whatever goal you set your mind to.
“Any opportunity like this will bring me a step closure to my dream. From what we learn this week, will give us the advantage we need to win the NZRC in 2017. That is our first goal. But not only that, it will flow on to everything we do as individuals in and out of the sport.”
Having started in local autocross events at age 12, Summerfield has already achieved considerable success in his 12 years of rally competition. He describes one of the highlights so far as being the outright winner of the 2015 Daybreaker rally round of the New Zealand Rally Championship. “I’m also very proud to have won the Ashley Forest Rallysprint three times in three different cars!”
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Sloan Cox hopes to take his career as a rally driver to a whole new level if he wins the inaugural Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout this weekend.
Cox knows this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from New Zealand’s best. “I knew I had to enter because it was such a great chance to work alongside Hayden and learn from him over the two-day shootout and ultimately be mentored by Hayden for the whole year if I was to win the shootout.”
The project/site manager for Rotorua engineering firm Taslo Engineering says: “This is amazing opportunity that Hayden Paddon and Hyundai New Zealand have put together for young New Zealand rally drivers so I really appreciate them selecting me as one of the lucky five drivers and giving me the chance to show them what I have to offer.”
“I know I will learn a lot but I really want to take away as much as I can to take my rally career to the next level with Hayden’s help,” says Cox who started his competitive rallying at age 15, won the junior driver New Zealand Rally Championship title in 2010 aged 19 and, after a three-year break from national competition, finished runner-up in this year’s NZRC and won the junior NZRC title for the second time.
“The whole shootout programme will benefit me in the future because Hayden is a rally star who has worked so hard to get to where he is now. To have the chance to work and learn from him is something you can’t buy and will help me with incredible knowledge.”
Cox will be joined by Sarah Coatsworth as his co-driver for the in-car section. “We have done a lot of rally and work together in the past and work really well together. I can’t wait to drive the Hyundai AP4 rally car. These AP4 rally cars are such a great base for a top car and have developed so fast. They are the future of rallying in New Zealand and Asia Pacific.”
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The Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout is a mentoring programme developed by Kiwi world rally star Hayden Paddon in partnership with Hyundai New Zealand and the Hyundai-backed Pinnacle Programme for talented teens. The shootout winner will get a major step-up with their motorsport career aspirations and benefit from the opportunity to drive the Hyundai NZ AP4 i20 rally car run by Paddon Rallysport in two rounds of the 2017 New Zealand Rally Championship, testing and training with Paddon, plus the potential for an expanded programme in 2018.
Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout and Scholarship was open to drivers aged 16-25 with applicants having contested a minimum of 10 rallies, including four pace-noted rallies. Six more applicants – Jack Williamson, Max Tregilgas, Michael McLean, Chris McLean, Ari Pettigrew and Jack Hawkeswood – have been invited to participate in the classroom day.
The Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout and Scholarship winner will be announced on 11 December.
Photo credits: Geoff Ridder, Scott Johnson, Kevin Corin, Sarah Faulkner, Jason Byrne, Paul Byrne