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Two-time New Zealand rally champion Hayden Paddon has confirmed he is driving for a new team in the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, which starts in Otago on 8 April.
 
The 23-year-old is also competing in the Production World Rally Championship with his first round taking place in Portugal this weekend (24 to 27 March).
 
Paddon’s entry in the New Zealand series is an important part of his preparation for the world series and the opportunity is thanks to Palmerston North businessman and former rally scholarship champion Robbie Leicester who initiated the formation of a new team to run Paddon in New Zealand’s premier rally competition.
 
“I’d love to win the New Zealand championship again,” says Paddon, who switched to a Group N Subaru for his PWRC campaign and, courtesy of Leicester, can now compete in another Subaru in the New Zealand series. Leicester has purchased a Possum Bourne Motorsport-built N15-specification Subaru Impreza WRX STI for Paddon to use.
 
“With the switch to Subaru for our 2011 PWRC campaign and the new commercial partnerships we have, it’s fantastic to have the opportunity to challenge for the New Zealand title and get more seat time in another competitive Subaru,” says Paddon.
 
“The standard of competition we have here in New Zealand is one reason my co-driver John Kennard and I have been so competitive on the world stage [Paddon came third in his debut PWRC season in 2010]. So competing in our local rally championship offers further opportunities for improving our own performance.”
 
Paddon’s NZRC entry covers just two rounds at this stage.
 
“We haven’t the financial commitment to attend all rounds at this point, but we’re working with new business partners to try extending our involvement beyond April’s DriveSouth Rally Otago and July’s International Rally of Whangarei events which puts us in with a serious chance of winning the NZRC title for a third time.
 
“Our NZRC competition also means a chance to involve the shareholders in Hayden Paddon Rallysport Global Limited, the company we set up last year to help underpin my longer term rallying career. The Otago and Whangarei events provide our shareholders, their friends and family an opportunity to see us in action and see what we’re doing as a team.”
 
Leicester says the decision to purchase the Subaru from Possum Bourne Motorsport was originally part of a plan for him to return to the sport. The car was originally destined for competition in last year’s PWRC to be driven by four-time Asia Pacific rally champion Australian Cody Crocker.
 
“Obviously that campaign for Crocker never happened and the car’s been parked, ready to go, ever since the start of 2010,” says Leicester. “So we’ve got a car that is as good as they come.”
 
“Then a chance conversation with Hayden and his father Chris turned my attention to a new opportunity that benefits us all.
 
“Hayden’s major competitors in the PWRC are competing in different continents every other weekend. Therefore Hayden also needs to be doing that as much as he can, subject to funding. It all boils down to time in the driver’s seat to help him get to his next goal of winning the PWRC title. And for me, I’ve got a car that becomes a hotter commodity if Hayden does well,” says Leicester.
 
“At present our biggest barrier is finding sufficient funding for the team to contest more of the championship – and make the most of opportunities for more seat time in a Subaru for Hayden. We’re all looking for the partners who can work with us and enjoy the chance to build their brand awareness through involvement with a star like Hayden Paddon.”
 
Peter (‘PJ’) Johnston, chairman of Rally New Zealand, the organisation which now runs the New Zealand Rally Championship, says it’s significant for the championship to have Paddon’s involvement.
 
“With Hayden’s success in the 2010 FIA Production World Rally Championship, his driving performance has clearly taken another step up,” says Johnston. “So to have Hayden competing in the New Zealand Rally Championship – albeit just two rounds at this stage – benefits both Hayden for more seat time and other competitors with a real incentive to match their pace against Hayden’s.
 
“It’s also significant to see Robbie Leicester’s involvement in helping put together this opportunity for Hayden and we welcome this kind of investment and commitment to New Zealand’s premier rally championship.”
 
The 2011 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, in association with Neil Allport Motorsports, covers five rounds over five months starting with DriveSouth Rally of Otago from 8 to 10 April. The championship continues with Rally New Zealand based at Hampton Downs from 6 to 8 May, Rally Wairarapa on 28 to 29 May, the International Rally of Whangarei from 15 to 17 July and Rally Hawke’s Bay from 20 to 21 August.
 
A new-look NZRC website is now live – www.nzrallychampionship.co.nz – and fans can also find out more information about any of the events on the New Zealand Rally Championship Facebook page.
 
2011 New Zealand Rally Championship Calendar
Round 1 – DriveSouth Rally of Otago – 8 to 10 April
Round 2 – Rally New Zealand ‘High Octane at Hampton’ – 6 to 8 May
Round 3 – Rally Wairarapa – 28 to 29 May
Round 4 – International Rally of Whangarei – 15 to 17 July
Round 5 – Rally Hawke’s Bay – 20 to 21 August
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