Hyundai's Hayden Paddon is hoping to boost the New Zealand rally scene by joining Hyundai New Zealand for two rounds of the national championship.
The World Rally Championship driver, who is New Zealand's best rally driver in history and recently equaled his personal best results with second place at this year's Rally Sweden, is eager to support the rally in his home country and help youngsters into the motorsport discipline.
Paddon will contest two rounds of the New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) in the 1.8-litre, turbocharged Hyundai i20 rally car with regular co-drive John Kennard at Rally Otgo (8-10 April and the International Rally of Whangarei (29 April-1 May).
In between the two events Paddon will travel to South America to contest round four, Rally Argentina, of the 2016 WRC championship on the 21-24 April for Hyundai.
“I'm very excited to be part of this programme with Hyundai New Zealand as we enter a new phase of our partnership to bring our rally exploits back to New Zealand and to introduce Hyundai New Zealand to the NZRC,” Paddon said.
“Together, we are all working to provide more opportunities for people in New Zealand rallying and this new car will form a major part of this project while also allowing John and I to, once again, enjoy two of the best rally events and rally roads in the world.”
The new Hyundai i20 has been built and developed in conjunction with Andrew Hawkeswood of Force Motorsport. Its chassis is constructed according to AP4 (Asia Pacific) regulations, which Paddon believes will be critical to the future of New Zealand rallying.
“AP4 technical regulations provide for a new, more affordable generation of four-wheel-drive (4WD) turbocharged rally car which is eligible for competition in both national and international events within the Asia Pacific region,” Paddon explained.
“Otago and Whangarei are my two favourite rallies in the world. It's also exciting to be debuting the new AP4 Hyundai chassis along Force Motorsport's two other AP4 cars. The car is still early in development, but has a lot of potential and we look forward to working closely with Force to help develop it into a rally-winning car.
“Like any new formula, it will take a little longer for this car to catch on, but I believe that value for money is the key with this sort of car. While not at the same level, it has the same design principles and look of a WRC car.”
Paddon will also be supported by students from the Pinnacle Programme, a mentoring programme for talented, passionate teenagers 15-18-years-olds.
“This project is much bigger than John and I,” he added. “This is an opportunity to boost New Zealand rallying by introducing new people to the sport in conjunction with the Hyundai New Zealand-backed Pinnacle programme.”