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New Zealand’s current rallying hero

Competition across the Tasman is as fierce as ever, but rallying is something the New Zealanders have aced compared to the Australians.

Hayden Paddon has led the recent charge for New Zealand holding a long association with Hyundai, but even before this he won the Production World Rally Championship in 2011 becoming the first driver from the southern hemisphere to win this title.

In a case of the apple not falling far from the tree, Paddon’s father Chris was a rally driver and through this his love of motorsport was born initially through karting.

Debuting in 2002, there was an unfortunate incident three years later when Paddon rolled in Rally Canterbury and his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IV burnt to the ground.

This just spurred him on as Paddon moved up to the New Zealand Rally Championship where success came in the Rookie and Junior titles. Further progression was made in 2007 when he was a Wildcard at his home rally before contesting Rally GB for Team Jordan, just as he nearly secured his first national title.

Paddon succeeded the next year to secure a maiden national crown and finished an impressive fourth in Rally NZ driving in the Production Class to be 13th overall.

Winning the Pirelli Star Driver scholarship in 2009 launched his career towards a career in the World Rally Championship as the prize funded six rallies of the 2010 season, plus a helpful $50,000 International Rising Star bonus courtesy of Rally New Zealand allowed Paddon to attack the PWRC.

Winning his home event in PWRC further added to Paddon’s status after third on Rally Finland and runner up in Rally Deutschland’s all-asphalt event.

A full-campaign delivered title success in 2011 after finishing first in Portugal, Argentina, Finland and Australia as this provided the basis to move into the S-WRC Championship in a Skoda Fabia S2000.

An impressive run in S-WRC including winning second time out in Portugal, led to his WRC debut courtesy of M-Sport in Spain where he finished eighth to be amongst the points.

Hyundai picked him up to complete part-programs during the coming seasons, with Paddon scoring a best of sixth in Australia as his debut season proved to be a consistent run.

Improving this to fifth at Sweden, Australia and Great Britain in 2015, Paddon was completing more events missing just the one event in 2015.

Scoring his first podium in Sweden, this led to a run of strong results including his maiden WRC victory to become the first from either side of the Tasman to achieve this. Paddon succeeded in Argentina before adding third in Poland to finish the season fourth in the points.

A disappointing campaign in 2017 where he still scored eighth with two podiums left him dropped from Hyundai’s WRC campaign.

Just as he was achieving success on the world stage, Paddon returned home and added NZ titles in 2009, 2013, 2018 and 2021.

Continuing to rally internationally, Paddon has also dabbled in TCR as well as constructing an EV Kona to explore the capabilities of electric power in rallying.