World Rally Championship driver and three-time winner of the ENEOS International Rally of Whangarei, Hayden Paddon, will again challenge for outright victory at this year’s May 4-6 event.
The opening round (of six) for the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), Paddon will join the four international entrants vying for the winner’s trophy – that he lifted in 2007, 2009 and 2010.
Driving the locally built Hyundai i20 Paddon will start first car on the road, with Mal Peden alongside as co-driver.
“Whangarei has always been a highlight rally for me. It’s where I got my first ever rally win in 2007, as well as its association with the WRC, at using iconic New Zealand roads made famous through rallying,” said the 31-year-old.
“The camber of the roads, where you’re jumping from corner-to-corner over the crown of the road is quite a sensation.”
While Paddon is keen to get his name on the native wooden trophy it’s the status of the event internationally that stepped him to the top level of competition:
“It’s nice to have any FIA event win on the CV but as well its where I won the Pirelli Star Driver scholarship back in 2010, which got me into the WRC. Plus competing at FIA sanctioned event level is more of a natural environment for me these days, as well as the two-pass reconnaissance, which gives other competitors an opportunity to develop notes and themselves at a higher level.”
Leading the international APRC field will be Australian based Kiwi Michael Young and co-driver Malcolm Read.
Young says he’s keen to test himself and the lighter Cusco backed Toyota Yaris on roads he knows well, having finished third overall in 2016. The car is powered by a Lexus 2000cc direct injection turbo engine supplied as part of a joint project with TRD Japan (Toyota Techno Craft Co., Ltd.).
“It will be hugely beneficial on the Day One stages when its more twisty and narrow. Being lighter I'll be able to brake later and throw the car around easier,” said 25-year-old Young. “I definitely want to improve from 2016, speed was good then, but I think we should be able to get more out of the Toyota.”
Other entrants include Yuya Sumiyama and Takahiro Yasui (Japan) in a Skoda Fabia R5, Fabio Frisiero and Simone Scattolin (Italy) in a Peugeot 208 and Fuyuhiko Takahashi and Mitsuo Nakamura (Japan) in a Subaru STI.
Following the four international entries will be a strong field of mainly Kiwi competitors. Included in that field, mostly contesting the second round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, will be defending Australian Rally Champion Nathan Quinn and Kiwi co-driver David Calder in a Ford Fiesta R5.
A total of 20 cars round out the main field with an additional 33 in the subsidiary clubman’s field.
Taking in roads to the north and south of host city Whangarei the event starts on Friday night with two Super Special Stages at the William Fraser Memorial Park. On Saturday teams cover 150km of competition broken into eight stages.
Sunday concludes with a further eight stages and 124km of competition before returning to Whangarei and the ceremonial finish at the Quayside Town Basin.
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