Kiwi Hayden Paddon will begin his rally year not only defending his 2008 New Zealand Rally Championship crown this weekend but packing his bags for the first round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) a week later.
Driving his championship-winning Team Green Mitsubishi Evo 9 at the Rally Hawke’s Bay (April 4 – 5), the Geraldine young gun can rest easy in the knowledge that his meticulously prepared Mitsubishi Evo 8 will be waiting for him to arrive for the Rally New Caledonia (April 10 – 12).
Paddon says he is fortunate to have such a dedicated team, who have been instrumental in his successful campaigns and work so hard to ensure his cars are running at their optimum performance levels. “If we had to put a figure on it, you could easily say the team has spent up to 300 hours per car getting them ready for 2009”, he estimates.
Both Mitsubishis will have a busy schedule this season as Team Green competes in five rounds of the Vantage New Zealand Rally Championship and six rounds of the APRC. Although it will mean swapping from the right-hand drive Evo 8 to the Evo 9’s left-hand system, Paddon says “….there’s nothing like a challenge.”
A recent test session saw the team make significant gains in enhancing the Evo 9’s capabilities, especially in terms of its suspension and diffs. “I think we got a lot more speed out of the car. It’s more to my liking but the proof is always in the pudding come stage one.”
Heading to Hawke’s Bay, where he won last year, the 21-year-old is not fazed by being first driver on the road for the opening eight stages. Day two will see a re-seed for its six stages but Hayden hopes that by upping last season’s winning formula, he will still be leading the pack. “We proved last year we were consistent but the big factor we want to work on is our speed. This weekend is all about concentrating on my own game, limiting the mistakes and extracting more speed from myself. If we can successfully put that recipe together then the desired result will come which is, of course, to win.”
In the APRC rallies he will draw on experience gained competing in Thailand and Malaysia last year and aim to build up his knowledge of the varying international conditions. “I’m solely going out there to learn.”
Some of the New Caledonian roads are similar to New Zealand, however the humidity and hot temperatures will necessitate Paddon and co-driver of four years John Kennard wearing cool-suits beneath their overalls. “Some of the stages look like public roads here with many winding along ridge lines but with a lot less trees to use as reference points.”
Team Green would like to thank their loyal supporters and sponsors for their assistance: Castrol, EDL Fastners, Rally Tours, Paddon Direct, BF Goodrich tyres, FMG, Endless Brakes, Hella, Teng Tools, Bluebridge Ferry?s, Resene Automotive Paints, In-Tune Automotive,Vicarage Lane Wines, Northend Ford, Pope Print, ZM, Steelplus, Andar the Front Store and Timaru Signs.
For more information onPaddon or the team visit their website, www.hayden-paddon.com.
Paddon’s 2009 rally programme comprises the following events:
Vantage New Zealand Rally Championship –
Rally of Hawke’s Bay, 4-5 April;
Rally of Otago, 16-17 May;
Rally of Whangarei, 6-7 June;
Rally Wairarapa, 18-19 July;
Rally of Nelson, 19-20 September.
FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Rally New Caledonia April 10-12,
Rally Queensland (Australia), 9-10 May;
Rally Whangarei (New Zealand), 6-7 June;
Rally Hokkaido (Japan), 11-12 July;
Rally Indonesia (Indonesia), 3-4 October;
China Rally (China), 14-15 November.
FIA World Rally Championship – Rally Australia September 2-6.