Paddon sets his sights on the long term

Hayden Paddon.
Hayden Paddon.
Hayden Paddon is hitting pause on chasing his World Rally Championship (WRC) dream and will focus on his business endeavours, which may well deliver him back to top-tier rallying in the future.

The difference will be that instead of driving for a foreign team, or having to find budgets in the hundreds of thousands, Paddon (32) plans to front up with his own rally car, built by his own Kiwi team.

You could say the Cromwell-based former WRC driver has come full circle. Paddon gained national and international rallying success with his own Team Green from 2008, when he won his first New Zealand Rally championship title, to 2013, when he first drove a Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team-prepared Ford Fiesta RS WRC car in Spain.

Six years later, after five seasons in a Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC car and having become the only New Zealand driver to win a WRC round, Paddon found himself in a M-Sport Fiesta once again this year, hoping to find a way back into the WRC.

A rock in the wrong place on a test stage destroyed that chance in Finland. Then bushfires in New South Wales saw his final chance go up in smoke.

“We had to find about $600,000 this year to do the two events. So that was a huge investment. OK, we got a little bit back from Australia. Still, it’s a lot of money for doing no rallies,” Paddon said of the funds raised.

He announced today he was taking a “rain check” on pursuing a 2020 WRC drive.

“It’s not really a decision you can, or you can’t make. We’ve got no other option at the moment. There are no drives for us. We’ve just got to try and focus on other things.”

Piloting a WRC Ford is a no-go.

“M-Sport is just not an option for us ... We’ve got to respect what Hyundai New Zealand are doing to support us and that’s the brand that we’re going to stay loyal to.’’

Paddon has committed to building an electric rally car with his Paddon Rallysport team out of their Highlands Motorsport Park workshop.

“We’ve got the EV project and what we are doing with that could put us in the right place at the right time in two or three years,” Paddon said.

Whether he would compete as a privateer team or with manufacturer backing it was too early to say. One thing he was certain about, however, was what he will be driving if he competes in the WRC‘s New Zealand round in September.

“If we do Rally New Zealand, I want to do it in a world rally car. I want to have a chance to compete near the front, on roads that I know.’’

He is looking much further ahead than next year.

“It’s about looking at the big picture ... I’m trying to set up myself, the business, and everyone involved in our business, for a long-term future in motorsport around the world.”

Having his hands wrapped around a steering wheel is one thing he will not be letting go of.

“My life will always be motorsport. It’s always going to be driving, for as long as I can, because that’s what I love to do.’’

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