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New Zealand’s top rally driver, Hayden Paddon, gets back behind the wheel of his championship-winning Mitsubishi this weekend after investing more than 1,000 hours rebuilding the car.
 
Paddon is looking forward to competing in the Hillblock Shingle Sprint run on Spur Road, Fairlie, on Saturday 2 March, his first event since November’s Rally Spain. The local rally-sprint event provides a break from the intensive planning that Paddon and his team continue to do, aiming to return to competition in the FIA World Rally Championship when the required funding can be put in place.
The Mitsubishi Lancer EVO rally car was extensively damaged 14 months ago after Paddon and a guest at his sponsor ride day plunged 200 metres down a cliff off a gravel road closed for the event. It is the well-known green-liveried car which Paddon drove to victory in two New Zealand Rally Championships, the Asia Pacific Rally Championship’s Pacific Cup and the Asia Pacific round of the Pirelli Star Driver scholarship competition.
 
Since returning from Europe last November where he contested the 2012 FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship, Paddon has worked on the car’s rebuild with the help of numerous people alongside his efforts trying to putting together an international campaign for the balance of this year.
 
“After the huge crash in December 2011, it’s been an equally massive effort to repair the EVO, possible only due to the contributions and generosity of a lot of South Canterbury people, especially Coxy and Alan Dunn,” says Paddon.
 
The EVO has been rebuilt to R4 specifications making it lighter and faster with improved geometry.
 
At the Spur Road event, organised by the Mackenzie and Ashburton Car Clubs, Paddon will also enjoy the opportunity to compete in the classic Stadium Cars Ford Escort BDA he ran at the DriveSouth Rally of Otago last May.
 
“Then I’ll be running as the zero-zero safety car for the Westland Rally 16 and 17 March, which will also be great fun.
 
“I’m just really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel during the coming weeks, but beyond that plans are still uncertain. I expect we’ll contest some other New Zealand rallies in the EVO, but the main priority continues to be to competing in selected World Rally Championship events this year. So we’re all working hard on those plans and, meanwhile, I can get back into the competition mode."
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