It is not often that one event will have as much riding on it as the International Rally of Whangarei will for Hayden Paddon and Team Green.
The country’s current rally title holder will be contesting four separate championships within next weekend’s (June 6 and 7) two-day clincher.
Firstly Team Green will be hunting down Richard Mason’s slim 10-point lead in the New Zealand Rally Championship ? all fired up after their win at the Rally of Otago two weeks ago.
Whangarei is also a round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
(APRC) and will see Hayden and co-driver John Kennard seeded third in the international pack.
They are a tantalizing one point behind fellow Kiwi, Brian Green, in the Pacific Cup which is a series incorporated into the APRC. After previous rounds in New Caledonia and Queensland, Whangarei is the third and final round where Hayden hopes to add an international championship to his CV.
Adding to the mix is his need to qualify for the Pirelli Star Driver scheme, which if he is successful will earn him a drive in six World Rally Championship events next year. The pressure is on as mechanical problems hampered his run at the other two Pacific qualifying rallies in New Caledonia and Queensland.
And as if that wasn’t enough to worry about, next weekend is his chance to further improve on the maximum points he has already earned (at Rally Hawke’s Bay and Otago) towards a $50,000 Rally New Zealand scholarship towards competing next year.
“Rather than concentrating on all four and getting a bit bamboozled, we are just going to go out there and do our own thing. I am starting to find more speed in the car and in myself but at the end of the day what will be, will be,” Hayden says.
As always he will be aiming for an overall win and is also keen to repeat his stunning 2007 victory, where he became the youngest driver to win an APRC round, scoring his debut win at the International Rally of Whangarei aged only 20.
Seeded third on the road amongst the international teams the thick gravel could pose a challenge in the morning passes but he has a tradition of saving the best until last and storming through for a strong finish.
“Although we will be higher up the start list than the other New Zealand Championship competitors it is not something I am worried about. It is entirely out of our control and all I am concerned about are the things that are in my control, such as the steering wheel and pedals in front of me.”
“The car has been stripped down and fine-tuned and running our new Dunlop tyres will definitely help us on our way,” Hayden says.
The Geraldine driver has had a month to remember – driving his Mitsubishi Evo 9 to victory at Otago and winning Motorsport New Zealand’s Rally Founders trophy for the second consecutive year. The trophy recognises the rally driver who performs with distinction during the rally season either nationally, internationally, or both, has a sportsmanlike attitude towards the sport and others, and displays the qualities of a true sporting ambassador.
“It is a true honour to receive this award and to especially have our name alongside the late great Possum Bourne on this trophy, as he is someone that I have always looked up to,” Hayden says.
Competition starts as early as Friday with official shakedown and the International Waka race. Later that evening the Rally is under way with the Ceremonial Start at the Town Basin, followed by 15 grueling stages in the spectacular Northland region over the the two day event.
The team would also like to thank their loyal supporters and sponsors for their continued support including Paddon Direct, EDL Fasteners, Rally Tours, Dunlop tyres, FMG, Endless Brakes, Castrol oils, Hella, Teng Tools, Bluebridge Ferry?s, Resene Automotive Paints, Murray Coote Suspension, In-Tune Automotive, Vicarage Lane Wines, Northend Ford, Pope Print, ZM, Steelplus, Andar the Front Store and Timaru Signs.
For more information on Hayden Paddon you can contact him on 027 318
1748 email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website, www.hayden-paddon.com
Photos: Euan Cameron
Hayden’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-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.