Hayden Paddon writes…taking it to the next level

| Photographer Credit: Buzz Haggarty

With the 2021 NZ Rally Championship is soon coming to an end, I think I speak for many that it has been great to see rallying back on a regular basis in NZ with so many competitors competing to a high level throughout the different classes.

We have also seen a big step up from a lot of competitors which shows the future of our domestic rallying is looking strong. Its also noticeable, more so than ever, at each NZRC event, just how many new young drivers and co-drivers there are which is awesome to see, and something we need to keep developing.

Personally from our side, it was great to wrap up the championship at the last event (Rally Hawke’s Bay). This was probably one of our better national titles simply due to the huge team effort and how much work each and every member of our team contributed.

We all enjoy winning and working together but we are also trying to continue to raise the bar. Car reliability is always the first place we start, and while there are always many unknowns and uncontrollables, we try and control and manage those aspects as well as we can.

An element of that comes from previous experience and having good systems in place back at the workshop. Our two car managers, Mike Pittams (AP4) and Ben Fretwell (Andy Martin Subaru) have done an amazing job in going over each car with a fine tooth comb after every event that has allowed us to keep the 100% finishing record for all cars this year to date. Still, with many events to go, we are certainly not a team to rest on previous results, and instead looking to be constantly improving things.

On the car development side, we slowed up somewhat on that in the first part of this year while we focused on reliability and also the development of the EV car. However, prior to the last event, we started with a new development plan and instantly at Hawkes Bay saw some increased performance.

This is only the start as we look to re-develop most areas of the car to help take things to another level. And that is not development by spending money and buying new parts, its development by new ideas in an industry that is always evolving. We are also learning a lot of lessons from the EV car which is helping us across the board.

I’m incredibly proud of all our guys in the team as we continue to strive to always improve. I have said it a few times, but while it may look easy from the outside, its certainly not from our end. Everyone pours so much effort into it all and that is what is making the difference.

From the outside it may look like we have a big budget. In fact, we do a full NZRC campaign on a relatively low budget as we try and develop the EV Kona rally car which is our main financial commitment. So, I can’t thank enough each and every team member, partner, supplier and supporter of our team who has helped to make the results possible.

There is still a lot more to fight for this year. Obviously we are looking forward to the final NZRC rally of the year in Coromandel, and then we transform the car into a hillclimb beast for the Ashley Forest Rallysprint and Battle of Jacks Ridge.

The Battle of Jacks Ridge is really a highlight event for all of NZ motorsport and its really awesome to be part of it. The effort that Rally NZ and the Hawkeswood’s put into running a world-class event on the outskirts of Auckland is really second to none, and helps build the profile of the sport and all local competitors.

That has a huge long term benefit for everyone involved and is something we can all be thankful to both Andrew (Hawkeswood) and PJ (Johnstone), as this was their brain child. It should be an even bigger and better event in 2022.

From our perspective these are great events for the sport. Commercially it’s a great opportunity to host VIP guests, VIP guest rides and of course hospitality in an arena style event where even the non die-hard rally fan can understand and get excited about the sport.

Long term I see an even greater place for these type of events to compliment the more traditional style of rallying.

Ex WRC driver Hayden Paddon is based in Cromwell, NZ and runs Paddon Rallysport as well as still actively competing in rallying. During his time with the Hyundai World Rally Team, Paddon competed in 81 WRC events, stood on the podium nine times including winning the 2016 Rally Argentina. Hayden joins the Talkmotorsport team writing a bi-weekly column on all things rallying.


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