Mayor’s rally ride ‘far more fun’ than expected

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins will no doubt be feeling a little more comfortable sitting in his reclining, swivelling office chair this morning — far safer than the one he sat in on Saturday when he rode with Kiwi rally star Hayden Paddon at the wheel.

Dunedin’s non-driving, hitch-hiking mayor got to ride in Paddon’s new experimental electric-powered rally car during an exhibition circuit at the tarmac super stage of the Otago Rally.

While a ride in a rally car is a white-knuckle experience for most people, it was petrifying for Mr Hawkins because he has had first-hand experience of what can happen when things go wrong in a car.

Otago Rally competitors (from left) Josh Marston, Andrew Graves, Hayden Paddon, John Kennard and...
Otago Rally competitors (from left) Josh Marston, Andrew Graves, Hayden Paddon, John Kennard and Regan Ross shower each other with sparkling wine on the podium at Brighton Domain yesterday. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
He was injured in a serious car accident in 2016 — an incident which still plays heavily on his mind to this day.

"It was Queen’s Birthday weekend and we hit black ice while going full speed on the open road.

"The car rolled a couple of times and then we slammed into a power pole.

"My wife was driving and our 3-month-old son was in the back."

He said he had to be cut out of the car, and was thankful that he was the only one in the vehicle to receive major injuries.

"I broke my arm. The point of impact with the pole was my elbow, roughly.

"But it could have been far worse than what it was.

"It’s certainly something I think about a lot.

"It’s made me more anxious as a passenger. You don’t forget that in a hurry."

He said the prospect of going "very fast and sideways and around in circles" was not appealing, and he only did it because he was being driven by one of the best rally car drivers in the world.

"If it wasn’t for Hayden, I probably wouldn’t have said yes.

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins’ face tells the story of his wild ride with 2021 Otago Rally champion...
Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins’ face tells the story of his wild ride with 2021 Otago Rally champion Hayden Paddon. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
"The car is incredibly fast, and how fantastic that this kind of sustainable technology and thinking is being developed right here in Otago.

"It has to be part of the future of the sport."

After the ride, he said it was strangely reassuring. It had made him feel a little more comfortable in a car.

"It wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it was going to be. I had a good driver, good conditions — and there was no ice on the track.

"My jaw relaxed over time."

It would have been different if he was on one of the gravel road challenges with trees rushing past either side of the car.

"I probably would have been less enthusiastic about that, to be honest."

While he had no ambition to get behind the wheel of a rally car, he said the experience had made him think more seriously about driving the family car again.

"It was certainly far more fun than I thought it would be."

 - Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard won the Otago Rally by 7 minutes and 32.9 seconds.


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