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Hayden Paddon is the first entry into November's Battle of Jacks Ridge rally sprint, to be held on private land just 20 minutes from Auckland's CBD. The World Rally Championship star has confirmed his participation in the event, which will be broadcast live on Sky Sport and is likely to attract the strongest field ever assembled for a domestic rally. The 33-year-old, who became the first Kiwi and first driver from the southern hemisphere to win a world championship event in Argentina in 2016, will tackle the 3km-long rally sprint stage at the purpose built Jacks Ridge facility on former national champion Andrew Hawkeswood’s property in his Hyundai i20 AP4. The full 6km-long Jacks Ridge stage was set to be a feature of Rally New Zealand 2020 when the WRC returned for the first time since 2012 before COVID-19 forced the event’s cancellation. With spectacular spectator viewing, a challenging but exciting layout and the backdrop of Auckland City and the Hauraki Gulf the Jacks Ridge stage needed to be used elsewhere and hence the idea of the Battle of Jacks Ridge came about. “This is going an amazing event and one I am really looking forward to,” Paddon said. “Andrew has done an amazing job constructing a world class rally stage that will be a real test for drivers while giving spectators an amazing show. “There are some technical bits that will put drivers to the test while the jumps will take some serious commitment and will be spectacular to watch.” Paddon will contest the City of Auckland Rally, using stages in the Auckland region that would have made up the WRC event, the day prior before converting his Hyundai into hill climb spec overnight. “It is such a shame that COVID-19 has disrupted the sport so much and that we weren’t able to hold a WRC Rally New Zealand on those awesome stages,” Paddon said. “It will be great to be able to drive some of those iconic stages and compete with New Zealand’s best too. “My team will be working hard converting our Hyundai i20 overnight and setting it up for the Battle of Jacks Ridge on the Sunday, where the extra horsepower will be needed. “It sounds like there will a lot of competition and I can’t wait to get amongst it.” Other big names have expressed an interest in competing in the event and some more announcements are likely in the coming days.
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