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The Stadium Cars International Classic Rally of Otago has received a major boost, with newly-signed Hyundai World Rally Championship driver, Hayden Paddon, confirming his entry in the May 10 and 11 event.
 
Paddon will be back behind the wheel of the Stadium Finance Ford Escort RS1800 that he last drove on the event two years ago.

“It’s great to return to the classic rally field – I’ve competed in this just once before, in 2012, when John and I had a puncture which cost us seven minutes while leading the classic field,” Paddon says.
 
Stadium-Finance-BDA-Escort“This time, equipped with the right tools and with more experience driving the rear-wheel-drive BDA, I’m really looking forward to the whole event. A big thanks to Tony Gosling from Stadium Finance for giving me the opportunity to drive his car again.

“As every rally fan knows, the BDA Escort is an iconic car in the history of rallying and even 30 years since the first BDA, they are still one of the fastest 2WD rally cars, and a heap of fun to drive on some of my favourite rally stages in the world.
 
“The car also has a few new upgrades compared to when I last drove it, including MCA suspension, so it should be a dream to drive.
 
“The Stadium Cars Otago Rally will be a good chance to get back into the rhythm of rallying again as it’s been over six months since our last event. Despite the car being quite different to what we will drive in Rally Sardenga a month later, every kilometre behind the wheel provides a good warm-up for doing reconnaissance, writing pace notes, the timing and speed of an event overall.”

For one of only a handful of times in the last eight years, New Zealand’s top rally driver will not have regular co-driver, John Kennard, in the opposite seat. Instead young, up-and-coming Kiwi co-driver, Malcolm Read, will read the pacenotes.
 
“Malcolm Read is stepping into the car with me for Stadium Cars Otago Rally as a way to begin working with the team in the longer term,” Paddon said.

“Later in the year he will join us on WRC events to assist with our gravel notes and John has already taken Malcolm under his wing to start passing on his wealth of knowledge. Together, the team seeks to help Malcolm develop into a world class co-driver.”
 
Read is understandably excited about the opportunity ahead of him and also comprehends the sheer volume of hard work needed to succeed in world rallying.
 
“This is a fantastic opportunity and it’s amazing that both Hayden and John are willing to support my development in the sport. Obviously it will be very important for me to learn as much as I can this year,” says Read, who won the FIA Asia Cup for Co-drivers alongside Opotiki’s Michael Young last year.
 
“I’m really looking forward to Otago, where I’ll be learning and using Hayden’s pacenote system for the first time. Thankfully John will be with us on recce and in the service park to guide me through it. It’s going to be an exciting weekend!”
 
This year’s Stadium Cars International Classic Rally of Otago sports a star-studded entry list including 1994 World Rally Champion Didier Auriol, last year’s Otago Classic Rally champion Neal Bates, and many of New Zealand’s best classic drivers, including Derek Ayson, Brian Stokes and Dean Buist.
 
Paddon adds: “It is going to be a fast rally this year, with some very good competition and some fast public road stages around the Lawrence region that have not been used before. I can’t wait.”
 
Following reconnaissance of the rally route on Thursday and Friday, the rally gets underway with a motor show and ceremonial start in Dunedin city on Friday evening.

Day one, Saturday, takes competitors south-west of Dunedin using six spectacular and fast public road stages between Milton and Lawrence and concludes with the ever-popular super special stage in downtown Dunedin.

Day two, Sunday, takes in eight stages to the south of Dunedin including the legendary ‘Kuri Bush’ and a welcome return to the Berwick Forest. A total of 286km of special stages will provide a huge challenge.

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