New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon, 22, has won the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship Shoot Out and will participate in next year’s Pirelli Star Driver scheme. Paddon was one of five young drivers within the region with a chance of winning a drive on six rounds of the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship.
The Asia-Pacific Rally Championship Shoot Out ran on the first day of competition on Rally Australia (Friday 4 September) and Paddon and his fellow competitors contested nine of the day’s stages. Some of the fastest roads in the country, combined with some of the most technical and twisty stages, ensured this was the perfect test of a drivers’ pace and ability in a rally car. Beyond the driving competition – in which Paddon was the fastest – the drivers were also assessed on their ability to communicate with the media. The judging panel took their time to arrive at what was a very tough decision, before announcing that Paddon would be the second consecutive New Zealander to drive in the Pirelli Star Driver scheme as he follows in Mark Tapper’s footsteps.
Hayden Paddon said: “This is pretty massive. I came here wanting to win and we’ve done that. It’s incredible for the whole team. The next big thing for me is to make the most of the opportunity which I have for next year. I want to use this as a springboard into the World Rally Championship. Once we’re there, we want to stay there. It’s always been my goal to get into the WRC. So far, I’ve done Rally New Zealand a couple of times and Rally GB in 2007.
“I haven’t really had much time to let this sink in, so I haven’t given next year too much thought. But looking at the events, Rally Finland is one which everybody would love to do. It’s the event with all the speed, the jumps, everything like that. It’s fantastic. But, any of the rallies are going to be an incredible experience and I’m looking forward to all of them.”
Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director said: “The people who have been involved in the selection process from this event have described Hayden as a level-headed, young, quick guy. You can see from his performance on the event that he is very competitive, which is great news, and we look forward to seeing that pace when he competes in next year’s Pirelli Star Driver programme on the world stage. His times were excellent on the rally, there’s no problem there. Running the Shoot Out on the event meant the drivers were able to pace themselves against the world’s fastest Group N drivers. It’s good to get the first driver for next year’s Pirelli Star Driver programme announced and we’re now looking forward to naming the next three drivers later this month and the final one in December.
This year’s Rally Australia is Paddon’s fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. His best result came on last year’s Rally New Zealand, where he placed his Mitsubishi 13th overall and fourth in Group N. Paddon won the right to compete in the Pirelli Star Driver Shoot Out on New Zealand’s round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, the International Rally of Whangarei in June. Paddon, who is co-driven by fellow New Zealander John Kennard, was born on April 20, 1987.
Hayden Paddon will be joined by four other drivers in next year’s Pirelli Star Driver programme. They will compete on six rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship in identical Group N cars. Next year will be the second season of the Pirelli Star Driver programme, which is designed to offer young drivers from around the world the opportunity to compete at the highest level of world rallying.
The next drivers to be announced for the 2010 Pirelli Star Driver scheme will be two from the FIA European Rally Championship (decided at a stand-alone Shoot Out in Freistadt, Austria on September 18-19) and one driver from the FIA African Rally Championship (decided at the Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally on September 17-19). The fifth and final driver for next year’s Pirelli Star Driver scheme will be decided at the Dubai International Rally on December 3-5.
Photos by Allan MacDonald / MacSpeed and Pirelli