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New Zealand’s World Champion rally drivers Hayden Paddon and John Kennard will tackle a new challenge when they drive a Ford Escort RS1800 in the classic challenge category of this year’s Drivesouth Rally Otago.

Paddon is currently home in Geraldine preparing for the next event in his Super 2000 World Rally Championship campaign, which is Brother Rally New Zealand from 21 to 24 June. In the meantime, the Kiwi star is keen to get any extra ‘seat time’ that he can.

“I’m delighted to take up this invitation to drive Tony Gosling’s recently-completed BDA-powered Escort,” says Paddon, who won the mainstream Group N category of this event last year in a Subaru.

Paddon will be joined in the BDA Escort, which is famous with rally enthusiasts for the sound made by its double overhead camshaft (DOHC) 16-valve inline four-cylinder engine, by regular co-driver John Kennard of Blenheim.

“It’s going to be some good, sideways fun. I haven’t driven a rear-wheel-drive car for some time, so John and I will just go and do our thing, get used to the car and hopefully that will treat us well.

“The Escort is obviously a very different car to the Skoda Fabia S2000 we’re driving this year, but it’s going to be great to have the additional seat time. At the end of the day we’re still doing a rally and it's about being in that mindset, doing the recce and keeping ourselves fresh.”

Gosling hasn’t even driven the new Escort himself.

“To see Hayden drive the new car for the first time will be a real buzz,” says the director of the Christchurch-based Stadium Cars, which has joined with Nichibo online vehicle auctions to jointly sponsor the classic rally. This subsidiary event to the DriveSouth Rally Otago is now known as the Stadium Cars and Nichibo Otago Classic Rally.

Gosling is also entered in the classic rally, where he’ll drive Jeff Judd's Mk1 Ford Escort in the same category as Paddon. Together the duo will compete under the Stadium Cars Motorsport banner.

The Otago classic rally is highly-regarded and attracts competitors from all over the world. Paddon faces stiff competition in the form of former British rally champion Gwyndaf Evans, multiple event winner Derek Ayson, from Clinton, and current NZRC historic category leader Marcus van Klink, from Kaiapoi in his Group B RX7.

The event runs from 25 to 27 May as part of the NZRC Rally Otago event which is the third round of the 2012 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, powered by Brother.

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