New Zealand’s leading rally driver Hayden Paddon is set to turn the key for a new season of international rallying with his first event, Vodafone Rally de Portugal, starting on 24 March.
Paddon, with co-driver John Kennard, has been testing a brand-new Subaru Impreza Group N rally car in Spain for the past few days before commencing his second attempt to win the FIA Production World Rally Championship title.

The 23-year-old from Geraldine finished third in the prestigious feeder series to the World Rally Championship on his first attempt last year before forming the New Zealand World Rally Team and putting together the Subaru-based campaign for 2011.
Working with Belgium rally experts, Symtech, for the first time, Paddon says the team has done a brilliant job of building a very good car.
“When we arrived at the test location in Spain, we saw our car for the first time and it looks very nice in its white, green and black livery with silver ferns.
“Initially we went through the basics of getting John’s and my seating positions sorted and getting familiar with parts and the operation of the car. Sitting in the cockpit, it is certainly one of the more comfortable cars I have sat in and even before I drove it, it felt like home.”
The two-day test was very productive with Paddon and the engineers working through various settings and components for dampers, springs, differentials and differential mapping. “Over the two days, we gained almost 1.5 seconds per kilometre in speed. The car responded to the changes well and we now have a good base set-up to tackle Portugal with.”
Having spent several years driving Mitsubishis, the change to Subaru was one that Paddon considered carefully and now appears to be very happy with.
“Our Subaru has a good strong engine which is equally as powerful as our previous cars, while the handling and balance of the car is far superior. This is hugely noticeable by the extra corner speed that you can carry. After now driving the Subaru in anger I firmly believe we have made a very good decision this year to change brands which will give us a better chance to fight for the PWRC title. Of course, testing and the actual rally are two different kettles of fish, but I am feeling good going into next week’s rally.”
Paddon and the team are now in Portugal, having completed a full day of testing with fellow PWRC competitors and the pre-event reconnaissance of all rally stages. Wednesday sees them take advantage of the full-speed shakedown runs to finish fine-tuning the car to Paddon’s preference. Paddon is involved with various promotional activities on Thursday before the rally starts with a three-lap run around a new super special stage in capital city Lisbon. Competitors and teams all then head south to the event’s home-base, the Algarve Stadium, near the southern coastal city of Faro.
Paddon comments: “It is great to go back to an event that we have prior experience of, and Portugal was an event that I enjoyed last year. The hard base roads can be a little rough, but the majority offers a lot of grip. Symtech has a proven package with their cars, so the car having tested so well, I am feeling very confident heading into Rally Portugal.”
This season, Paddon contests six PWRC rounds, taking the two-time New Zealand rally champion from Portugal to Argentina, then Finland, Australia, Spain and Great Britain for his 2011 title bid. In between times, Paddon returns home to contest two rounds of the New Zealand Rally Championship in Otago and Whangarei.
Paddon and the New Zealand World Rally Team appreciates the support of Subaru, EDL Fasteners, Paddon, Chicane, Radio Sport, Radio Hauraki, Raisey Sports Nutrition, FMG, Resene Automotive, Endless Brakes, Castrol and Rally Tours NZ.

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