Hayden Paddon and Emma Gilmour have been awarded scholarships to compete in next month’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship in New Zealand.    

Paddon and Gilmour were selected by Rally New Zealand, who hope the two young drivers will use  the development opportunity to propel themselves on to the world stage.    The 38th Rally New Zealand, the 11th round of the World Rally Championship, will be staged in and around the Waikato and Franklin regions from August 30 to September 2.    

The scholarships entitle Paddon and Gilmour to compete as wildcard entries in the Production World  Rally Championship class, up against more than 20 international drivers.    Last year Rally New Zealand established the scholarship, giving current national champion, Richard  Mason, and Chris West the opportunity to compete in the PWRC class. Mason took full advantage, finishing second in the class and 10th overall.    

“Richard and Chris took this opportunity with both hands and Richard, in particular, has gone on to develop an international profile racing in China,” said Chris Carr, chairman of Rally New Zealand.    “We see the scholarship as a real opportunity to blood the next young drivers and see if they can use  it as a catalyst for their international careers. I am sure that both Richard and Chris will attest to its benefits.”    

Paddon, 20, comes from a family of motorsport enthusiasts. After success in  karting and club racing, Paddon moved into rallying, winning the Junior and Rookie honours last  year as well as earning a Motorsport NZ scholarship.    He showed his class with a brilliant win in the Hella International Rally Whangarei, a round of the FIA  Asia Pacific Rally Championship, becoming the youngest driver to ever win a round of the New  Zealand championship.    

“This is an awesome honour. We will do our very best and try to show everyone that Kiwis can fly,”  Paddon said. “I am absolutely stoked.”    

Gilmour, 27 is from Dunedin, and like Paddon, comes from a motorsport family.    She began rallying five years ago and quickly moved up the ranks, finishing in a share of third in last year’s national championship.    

“This is a really pleasant surprise. We know from our experience racing in the Fiesta class that to race in a world championship is excellent exposure,” said Gilmour, who was testing her new rally car  near Dunedin yesterday. “It will mean we can test ourselves against the best in the world. It will be absolutely awesome.”     

Carr said Rally New Zealand wanted to encourage more women to take up the sport.    “We want more women in rallying. Emma is a wonderful ambassador for our sport both in and out of  the rally car,” he said.    

The scholarships were announced at the Rally New Zealand Promotion Day at Mystery Creek where  Drury (NZ) driver Glenn Inkster won the prize of a free entry in Rally New Zealand.    

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