Five Kiwis ready for Pirelli rally challenge
- 7th October 2008, 2:08pm
The five kiwis entered for the Pirelli star driver competition are: Hayden Paddon (21, Geraldine); Kirsty Nelson (18, Whangarei); Brad Ayling (26, Inglewood); Mark Tapper (27, Auckland) and Patrick Malley (24, Auckland).
Launched this year by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the world-wide initiative aims to introduce new talent to the world stage. The 2008 Pirelli star driver scheme sees one driver from the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions and two from Europe win the opportunity to compete in six World Championship rallies in 2009 using a supplied Group N or Super 2000 car.
The Asia-Pacific Pirelli star driver competition commenced in New Zealand with a qualifying round run as part of the NAC Insurance Hella International Rally of Whangarei in June this year.
Recently-crowned New Zealand rally champion Hayden Paddon topped the Pirelli points’ table in Whangarei with Brad Ayling the second driver to receive the qualifying round prize of €5,000 to assist with entry and costs of competing in Malaysia.
Rally Malaysia is essentially the Asia-Pacific Pirelli star driver finale where the winner takes all. Points are allocated according on the driver’s finishing position on each stage of the two day rally held near Johor Bahru in southern Malaysia.
“I can’t wait to get in to the first stage,” said Paddon. “Ever since this scheme was announced back in May we have been really excited about having a good crack at it. I think even after our successful New Zealand campaign we can still lift our game higher and challenge for the top spot here too.”
Paddon, along with Ayling, Malley and Nelson, will be driving in Malaysia for the first time, while 27-year old Mark Tapper has already contested an event there earlier in the year.
“I guess it’s to my advantage – the fact I have been there earlier in the year and have experience of the stages and conditions,” said Tapper. Driving a Reece Jones-prepared Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9, Tapper believes his pace at selected events this year puts him on a par with the in-form Paddon and talented Australian Eli Evans.
All of the drivers entered for the Pirelli star driver competition have also had the opportunity to participate in the Pirelli star driver development programme from Sunday 5 October to Tuesday 7 October along with their co-drivers.
“It’s an informative course very similar to the elite sports academy we have here in New Zealand that I attended in 2006,” explains Paddon. “Then on Wednesday and Thursday we have a two-pass reconnaissance over the rally roads – it’s essential we produce a good set of pace notes from this recce. Friday is our last chance to check the car, then it’s the ceremonial start and the rally kicks off on Saturday morning.”
Other competitors in the hunt for the 2009 Asia-Pacific Pirelli star driver position include Rizal Sungkar (Indonesia), Arjun Rao Aroor (Indonesia) and James Russell (Malaysia).
Rally Malaysia is the first significant local event following the annual period of Ramadan, a period of fasting during daylight hours observed by the Muslim faith. Contested over 14 stages through palm oil and rubber tree plantations the tropical climate often fluctuates between high intensity sunshine and periods of heavy rain, dramatically affecting the driving surface. Malaysia is six hours behind New Zealand, with results available on www.malaysianrally.com.
“It’s very exciting to see five of our young rally drivers making the commitment and effort required to compete in an international event,” says Repco Rally New Zealand chairman Chris Carr.
“This speaks volumes about the dedication and desire these talented drivers have to chase an opportunity like the one afforded by the Pirelli star driver competition. There’s no doubt it is harder for our talented young drivers to compete internationally compared to drivers of a similar standard in Europe, for example. We commend their hard work and initiative and wish them all the best in Malaysia. If nothing else, it will be a fantastic experience rallying in another country and one which will stand them all in good stead in their professional rallying careers.”
SUBSCRIBE BELOW TO READ THE FULL STORY
By clicking "Subscribe Now" you agree to receive news, offers and updates on RallySport Magazine. If you do not wish to receive marketing communications, you can update your preferences in My Account.
We will commence charging your payment method after the 7 day free trial expires. If you cancel after expiry of your trial, cancellation will take effect from the end of your current monthly subscription period. You will not be refunded any fees paid to RallySport Magazine unless otherwise set out in the terms and conditions.