Paddon has formed what is essentially the first New Zealand world rally team since Possum Bourne. The new team is run by Hayden Paddon Rallysport Global Ltd, the company formed by Paddon and his supporters late in 2010.
The goal is simple: to win the 2011 PWRC title.
“There has been a phenomenal amount of hard work by many people to put this campaign together,” said the two-time New Zealand rally champion at the team’s launch at a special fundraising dinner in Timaru on 22 January. “While we are not over the finish line yet in terms of the budget, we are well on our way and will continue to work on the required funds throughout the year.”
Not only does Paddon’s 2011 campaign represent the first time a New Zealand team has put together a full PWRC campaign, it’s also got a major twist for the long-time Mitsubishi driver.
“While it’s no secret that we wanted to get back overseas and win the PWRC title this year, what may surprise many is our switch of cars to form a partnership with rally giant, Subaru,” says Paddon.
Paddon finished third in the production car class – a feeder series to the World Rally Championship – on debut in 2010. That campaign had the backing of funding and a professionally-prepared vehicle from the Pirelli Star Driver scholarship that Paddon won in 2009, as well as funding from Paddon’s own sponsors and a Rally New Zealand Rising Stars driver development award.
“Last year’s opportunities with the Pirelli Star Driver programme were amazing, and to follow that up by being able to put our own global programme together is fantastic. We were offered an opportunity to run with Ralliart Italy again this year in a Mitsubishi, but after being approached by a Subaru representative, we decided to make the change as we feel that there are greater future possibilities with Subaru.
“The move to Subaru will be a big change for us, especially considering how much we have achieved in a series of Mitsubishis. In saying that, I am confident that driving the Subaru will give us a better chance of winning the championship as they are very strong, well balanced cars. At the end of the day, as long as it has four wheels and a steering wheel, Iâ€™m happy! As a youngster I was always a huge Subaru fan, and now to get a chance to drive one in world competition fulfils a childhood dream.”
Running a latest spec STR11 Subaru Impreza N4 for Paddon and his co-driver for the past five seasons, Blenheim’s John Kennard, is highly-regarded Belgium team, Symtech Racing.
Symtech, based in Grobbendonk, is well known in Europe for its extensive expertise building and running competitive Subaru Impreza rally cars to international Group N (or production car) regulations. The team won the 2004 PWRC title with Irish driver Niall McShea and currently successfully runs the official Subaru Poland rally team in the Polish national rally championship.
“This is our first time dealing with Symtech, but Dirk, Wim and the rest of the team are really enthusiastic about working with us. They are every bit as motivated to win the production championship as we are. All the ingredients are there for it to be a successful relationship and we are confident that the car will be very competitive.”
Adapting to the Subaru is another new challenge for the 23-year-old who demonstrated a consistent ability to learn, improve and deliver strong performances in every event he contested last year. Paddon sees the change of car as simply another opportunity to lift his game to a whole new level and challenge for the PWRC class victory.
“I had the chance to have a small test with a Subaru last November while I was in the UK. My initial impressions were good and I was impressed by the handling and balance of the car. Before our season gets underway at Rally Portugal at the end of March, we will have a comprehensive two-day test with Symtech to learn the car and get it dialled in for my driving style. I have no doubts that as soon as we start the first stage in Portugal that we will pick up from where we left off last year.”
“Hayden’s choice of a Subaru is one we are all celebrating throughout the New Zealand dealer team,” says Wallis Dumper, managing director of Subaru of New Zealand, who initiated Paddon’s discussions regarding the move to Subaru.
“While Hayden’s sporting challenges take place offshore, we are proud to have helped in our own small way in supporting this campaign. I am sure every Kiwi will follow the black and silver fern-emblazoned Impreza with interest as Hayden takes on the rest of the world.
“Many will recall how with the invisible advantages of our All-Wheel-Drive, the late Possum Bourne made his mark on the rally sport world and this assault by Hayden’s team will certainly galvanise the interest of all our customers and our independently owned and operated Subaru dealerships throughout New Zealand. Rallying may not be every person’s favourite sport but if you are a Kiwi at heart, you just have to give these guys support.”
The New Zealand Subaru distributor will help keep the public aware of Paddon’s efforts in Europe and the rest of the world with regular rally reports and in doing so, Dumper suggests it may be another way to help support all those sponsors who have committed early and got behind the team.
“Subaru is the ‘confidence in motion’ brand and we trust those inherent qualities flow through to Hayden in achieving his 2011 goals in a Subaru.”
Finishing third overall in his first PWRC season is one important aspect of Paddon’s successful international debut. Another highlight was being named as one of the top ten world rally drivers who stood out in 2010 by David Evans, rallies editor with ‘motorsport bible’ Autosport magazine. Evans noted Paddon’s defining moment of the season during his second run at Mosselland in Germany where he had his first PWRC stage win on asphalt.
Both Paddon and Kennard acknowledge that their 2011 campaign will be their biggest test as a driver pairing yet as they tackle six events around the world against strong competition.
“The competition is looking a lot stronger this year,” notes Paddon. “As we found out last year, there is simply no room for error at this level. Where we had three or four teams fighting for victory last year, I feel the number of potential victors will double this year. This is great for the championship and also means that we have to work even harder to make our goal of winning the championship a reality.”
Paddon has nominated the following six PWRC events: Vodafone Rally de Portugal (24-27 March), Rally Argentina (26-29 May), Neste Oil Rally Finland (28-31 July), Rally Australia (8-11 Sept), Rally de Espana (20-23 Oct) and Wales Rally GB (10-13 Nov).
While not all the necessary budget is in place, Paddon’s campaign has been made possible with the formation of a new company, Hayden Paddon Rallysport Global Ltd (HPRG).
Directors Peter Anderson, Peter Swaney and UK-based Kevin Morris described the company as a great success, having attracted shareholders in the very short period of time that the company has been up and running.
“To watch Hayden’s progress over the previous years I believe that he can go a long way in the sport and to be a part of helping make it happen along with a group of shareholders is an exciting prospect,” said Anderson.
Swaney added: “We have a company plan in place to aid Hayden’s career for the next five years. While we are still working hard to put the final pieces of the puzzle together for this year, we have not lost sight of 2012 and 2013 which will be pivotal years as more manufacturers and opportunities become available in the World Rally Championship.”
Fellow company director and Paddon’s father, Chris Paddon added that the structure of the company, HPRG, is not just focused on 2011, but the long-term future as they help Hayden to the top level of rallying.
“This company gives both Hayden and his backers some certainty for his future. An added advantage is that Hayden can take a step back from the logistics and organisational side of things to focus more on his driving,” said Chris Paddon.
The New Zealand World Rally Team’s arrival on the world stage is an exciting venture that the entire team hopes will inspire the support of Kiwis – motorsport fans and more – all over the world.
At January’s Timaru event, Paddon also announced some of the partners supporting both the New Zealand World Rally Team’s international PWRC campaign and his national championship campaign – the details of which are still being finalised.
Radio Sport continues its partnership with the team, which started last year, and long-term partners EDL Fasteners and Castrol also continue for a fifth term with the likeable and very popular driver. A new partner, Raiseys Original sports food and nutrition, has joined the team as they look to promote their New Zealand-made and distributed sports supplements.
The team website, www.haydenpaddon.com, has been revamped with new imagery and information with the launch of the New Zealand World Rally Team.