Newly crowned Vantage Aluminium New Zealand Rally Champion Hayden Paddon and Paddon Direct Team Green have reluctantly confirmed that they will not contest the final championship round at Boxman Rally of Nelson. The decision comes about largely due to the Team’s championship winning Mitsubishi already being transit to Malaysia for the Pirelli Star Driver final in October, with no viable option for a replacement car.
“It’s unfortunate that we can’t make it to the start line, as Nelson is certainly one of my favourite events and it would have been nice to go back and defend last years win”, said Hayden after the decision. “But realistically we have to look at the big picture, which is that we’ve wrapped up the New Zealand title and now have the opportunity of a lifetime in Malaysia”.
Paddon, along with co-driver John Kennard, accumulated enough points at the last round, Rally New Zealand, to take unassailable leads in both the drivers and co-drivers titles with one championship round remaining, securing the team’s first Gold Star championship awards. Their efforts, along with those of fellow Mitsubishi driver Chris West, have also helped wrap up the manufacturers crown for Mitsubishi, the first time the three diamond brand has won the title with Group N production based cars.
The 2008 season has been an impressive one for the team from South Canterbury, finishing on the podium at all five rounds held to date, including a round victory and three runner-up spots. They have been the model of consistency, but Hayden is aiming to develop his driving to produce more speed over the coming season.
“The strength and reliability of the car this season has been a huge testament both to Mitsubishi’s product and the hard work the team have put in preparing it. As the championship has proven in recent years, consistency is just as vital in the recipe as speed. We’ve proven we have both, using each when we needed, so now I’m going to concentrate on fine tuning my driving and performance behind the wheel. It’s encouraging to know our current performances are within my comfort zone and to know I have something left in the tank. It’s just a matter of developing that exuberant extra speed into controlled speed, which is where experience and knowledge makes all the difference.”
The Team’s attention now turns to the Asia Pacific series for Rally Malaysia on 11-12 October. Hayden describes the event as an all or nothing rally, with points allocated on a stage by stage basis for all eligible competitors (less than 27 years old and residing in the Asia Pacific region). The driver with the most points at the end of the two day event wins the goldmine prize; a fully funded drive in the 2009 Production World Rally Championship.