Gray to call pace notes for Paddon

Timaru's Samantha Gray and Hayden Paddon are teaming up for this week's Whangarei rally. Photo: Jack Smith
Timaru's Samantha Gray and Hayden Paddon are teaming up for this week's Whangarei rally. Photo: Jack Smith
Central Otago's Hayden Paddon tackles this weekend's International Rally of Whangarei with a new co-driver calling the pace notes.

Paddon will naturally focus on his own performance, aiming to set several stage records on the fast, cambered roads of the Whangarei rally that he enjoys so much and has won four times previously.

He also seeks to earn the best possible haul of points towards the Pacific Cup of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship. Whangarei is the second of two New Zealand APRC events.

At the same time, he has offered Timaru's Samantha Gray the opportunity to co-drive for him in the Hyundai i20 AP4 car.

Gray usually competes alongside Regan Ross in an Escort in the New Zealand Rally Championship's historic category.

Paddon has invited Gray as part of his commitment to give young people an opportunity within his team.

The third generation of her family to participate in motorsport, Gray (24) started co-driving in 2015 before being selected as one of two female co-drivers for New Zealand's Elite Motorsport Academy programme in 2017 and, last year, being selected by Rally New Zealand for their Co-drivers' Academy coaching programme.

''Samantha is one of the leading young co-drivers in the country,'' Paddon said.

''She has ambitions to take her career international and if we can help a little towards that with the experience of contesting the Asia Pacific category at one of only two international rallies in New Zealand this year, then that's what we want to do.

''Paddon Rallysport is committed to working with young talent on a long-term basis.''

Paddon and Gray have spent a couple of days training together, out on a closed road test day and another day doing pace notes practice.

''It's impressive to see how committed she is, and I have no doubt she will do a great job.''

It has been one of this season's tightest turnarounds between events for the Paddon Rallysport engineers as the Hyundai rally car was given a thorough check-over and service to prepare it for the second event of the 2019 rally season.

This season, a key focus for Paddon is the new format of the APRC with two Pacific Cup rounds in New Zealand and two in Australia.

Having secured the maximum points at the first New Zealand APRC round at Otago, Paddon said the team was targeting the Pacific Cup which opened up the opportunity to qualify for the APRC final in China at the end of the year.

The rally starts on Friday night.

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