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Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are heading to Europe earlier than planned with New Zealand’s top rally pairing now scheduled to contest the Ypres Rally in Belgium at the end of June before August’s two World Rally Championship events in Finland and Germany.
 
For the Ypres event they will pilot a Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta S2000 run by the team with which Paddon and Kennard won the 2011 FIA Production World Rally Championship, Symtech Racing. Paddon will then return to BRR and Skoda for Rally Finland.
 
“Ypres is one of the biggest events on the European Rally Championship (ERC) calendar. The tarmac roads there will provide a real challenge as they are unlike anything we have driven on. Likewise driving the Fiesta for the first time will take a little adapting to. But this is all part of the process of developing myself as a driver, experiencing new events and challenging myself in different vehicles – I can’t wait!” says Paddon from his home in Geraldine, in New Zealand’s South Island.
 
“It is also great to be competing in the ERC, the sister championship to the WRC and a championship which is dominated by Super 2000 cars, including factory teams, so this puts us in direct competition with a lot of Super 2000 drivers.”
 
Paddon and Kennard are also excited to team up with Symtech Racing again, who they last worked with during their 2011 PWRC championship-winning year. As a local Belgium team, their local experience and expertise will help the Kiwis to extract the most from their own performance and the event.
 
“I’m looking forward to working with both Symtech and Pirelli again,” Paddon adds. “Pirelli has been pivotal in my career, having won the Pirelli Star Driver Scholarship back in 2010 which gave us the opportunity to get onto the WRC stage. We are sure their tyres will give us a good chance to be competitive.”
 
Based in the north-west Belgium town of Ypres, the 59-year-old rally typically features 120 competitors from around 16 different countries and has attracted up to 300 accredited journalists from 19 European countries. In the past three years, it’s been won by local hero Freddy Loix and Finn Juho Hänninen both driving Skoda Fabia S2000 cars. Broadcast live throughout Europe on Eurosport TV, the event uses asphalt roads around the historic market town; its narrow stages through farmland feature drainage ditches, telegraph poles and tight junctions, so taking shortcuts is a very risky choice.
 
“It’s a challenging tarmac event where the locals are renowned for being very fast. From the footage I have seen, it looks like an enjoyable, very fast tarmac rally.”
 
Clearly excited by the challenge of tackling an event he’s never done before, especially one with such an intensely competitive reputation, Paddon adds: “Within the ERC, we will be fighting for overall rally honours along with many other Super 2000 cars.
 
“We’re going into the unknown on this event, which is thought of as a specialist’s event. We have no experience of it, so it’s going to be quite a battle, but it’s always good to challenge yourself. John and I have a good system with writing notes on new events, so we are backing ourselves to be challenging the leading teams.
 
Paddon and Kennard will now not contest the Daybreaker Rally in Feilding, a NZRC event, as it falls on the same weekend as the Ypres Rally nor will they compete in their local Canterbury Rally in August.
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