Paddon gunning for repeat Whangarei win

Kiwi Hayden Paddon heads to next week’s International Rally of Whangarei (2 to 4 July) looking to secure his third outright victory in the highly-regarded two-day rally.

Paddon and co-driver John Kennard, from Blenheim, have just one goal – the rally win.

“We want to put together a nice, clean rally, driving at 100% right from the start, and take that top step on the podium,” says Paddon who won the Whangarei event in 2007 and 2009.

The 23-year-old is midway through the biggest year of his rallying career to date and has several performance-related objectives that he and Kennard plan to work on during the heat of competition in Whangarei. Paddon is currently one of five Pirelli Star Drivers, a global driver development programme that sees the two-time New Zealand champion running a Ralliart Italy-prepared Mitsubishi EVO X in six rounds of this year’s World Rally Championship. With the bonus of support from Rally New Zealand’s Rising Stars driver development scheme, Paddon entered two additional WRC events which made him a full entrant in the 2010 FIA Production World Rally Championship (PWRC), a vitally-important WRC feeder series.

Paddon and Kennard’s last rally was WRC Portugal at the end of May. Again the pair finished the best of the Pirelli Star Drivers, but Paddon says that event highlighted improvements needed to be made to their pace noting system.

“We’ll be taking the opportunity in Whangarei to practice the changes to our pace notes. The great thing about being on an event we know well, we have the chance to make that kind of fine-tuning to our systems.

“Also, being a two day event on roads we know, we don’t have as much concern about conserving the car to make it to the end as we do on tough, rocky WRC events like Turkey where just getting to the finish is a huge challenge on its own.”

Paddon will drive his championship-winning Team Green Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX in the Whangarei event and will be running Pirelli’s customer spec tyres for the first time, different to the Pirelli control tyre he’s used to in the WRC. “We really appreciate Pirelli’s support for this event.”

Paddon’s next offshore event is Rally Finland at the end of July and he’s super aware of the need to demonstrate outright speed in the Group N, or production category, Mitsubishi EVO X.

“The international teams are looking for outright speed on as many stages as possible. We have secured numerous good results, rally wins and championships in New Zealand and overseas now, so that aspect of our performance is good. But Pirelli team-mate Ott Tänak, from Estonia, is quick and I want to demonstrate I can match his pace which I know I can do.

“Therefore Whangarei will be really important for us to be at maximum pace right from the first stage. I don’t have to worry about championship points or anything other than getting in the right frame of mind to drive at 110% from start to finish which is the same mind-set that we want to carry into Finland.”

With the opportunities afforded by this year’s WRC events to demonstrate his abilities and commitment to developing a professional WRC career, Paddon has already spent time talking with team managers overseas.

“We have just a handful of rallies remaining – Finland, Germany, Japan, France and Great Britain – with the chance to show what we’re capable of. This makes our last home event of the season important for John and me to work through these performance elements and be as well prepared as possible for our next PWRC event in Finland.”

The International Rally of Whangarei is a round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship and the New Zealand Rally Championship. Paddon is registered to earn points in both series, after being awarded one of the APRC wildcard entries.

“Last year we won the Pacific Cup, which is part of the Asia Pacific series, but we didn’t get to earn APRC points. While earning APRC points isn’t our top priority, if we can do well in both the event and the APRC field, that would be awesome. The APRC is a prestigious FIA series and to win a round is a very significant achievement.”

Paddon’s international campaign wouldn’t be possible without the support of relevant sponsors and he’s delighted to welcome Cameron Air & Seafreight to his sponsor group.

“Based in Christchurch, Cameron Air & Seafreight will play a vital role in helping us get our Team Green Mitsubishi EVO IX and equipment to Japan for one of our PWRC rounds in September. Just a couple of weeks after Whangarei, we’ll have the EVO IX rebuilt, packed and in a container ready to go to the city of Sapporo on Hokkaido Island.”

The South Island based team heads to the northern city of Whangarei in the next few days with reconnaissance to be completed on Thursday 1 July and various promotional activities on Friday 2 July before the rally itself takes place over the weekend of 3 and 4 July. Then Paddon has about two weeks at home before leaving for Finland in the third week of July. The determined young Kiwi plans to spend much of the next few months in Europe, seeking to secure a drive for 2011 between his remaining and still vital WRC opportunities in 2010.