Freshly signed Hyundai WRC driver Hayden Paddon will be back behind the wheel of a Ford Escort RS1800 for the Stadium Cars International Classic Rally of Otago.
The May 10-11 event saw Paddon make his debut in the Escort two years ago.
“It’s great to return to the classic rally field – I’ve competed in this just once before, in 2012, when John and I had a puncture which cost us seven minutes while leading the classic field,” Paddon said.
“This time, equipped with the right tools and with more experience driving the rear-wheel-drive BDA, I’m really looking forward to the whole event. A big thanks to Tony Gosling from Stadium Finance for giving me the opportunity to drive his car again.
“As every rally fan knows, the BDA Escort is an iconic car in the history of rallying and even 30 years since the first BDA, they are still one of the fastest 2WD rally cars, and a heap of fun to drive on some of my favourite rally stages in the world.
“The car also has a few new upgrades compared to when I last drove it, including MCA suspension, so it should be a dream to drive.
“The Stadium Cars Otago Rally will be a good chance to get back into the rhythm of rallying again as it’s been over six months since our last event.”
For one of only a handful of times in the last eight years, New Zealand’s top rally driver will not have regular co-driver, John Kennard, in the opposite seat.
Young Kiwi co-driver Malcolm Read will read the pacenotes.
Read won the FIA Asia Cup for co-drivers alongside Opotiki’s Michael Young last year.
“Malcolm Read is stepping into the car with me for Stadium Cars Otago Rally as a way to begin working with the team in the longer term,” Paddon said.
“Later in the year he will join us on WRC events to assist with our gravel notes and John has already taken Malcolm under his wing to start passing on his wealth of knowledge. Together, the team seeks to help Malcolm develop into a world class co-driver.”
Read is understandably excited about the opportunity ahead of him and also comprehends the sheer volume of hard work needed to succeed in world rallying.
“This is a fantastic opportunity and it’s amazing that both Hayden and John are willing to support my development in the sport. Obviously it will be very important for me to learn as much as I can this year,” Read said.
“I’m really looking forward to Otago, where I’ll be learning and using Hayden’s pacenote system for the first time. Thankfully John will be with us on recce and in the service park to guide me through it.”
This year’s Stadium Cars International Classic Rally of Otago sports a star-studded entry list including 1994 World Rally Champion Didier Auriol, last year’s Otago Classic Rally champion Neal Bates, and many of New Zealand’s best classic drivers, includingDerek Ayson, Brian Stokes and Dean Buist.