Paddon wins Pirelli Star Driver award
- 5th September 2009, 10:04pm
Paddon, 22, was selected by a panel of judges from five candidates representing New Zealand, Australia and China who contested a shootout as part of the World Rally Championship event in the New South Wales Northern Rivers.
He will be one of five drivers aged 27 or younger from the Asia Pacific, Africa, the Middle East and Europe who will make the leap from their regional championships to the world stage next year in six rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship.
The Pirelli-backed program, in collaboration with the world motorsport governing body FIA, will provide a fully-supported drive in a Group N car, plus a full physical training and nutrition program and media and career management training at Edinburgh University in the UK. The prize is unofficially estimated to be valued at up to a million dollars.
â€œItâ€™s pretty amazing to win the Pirelli Star Driver for Asia Pacific,â€ an excited Paddon said when his win was announced during the lunchtime service break.
â€œItâ€™s a massive jump. Itâ€™s been my ultimate dream to be in the WRC and do well at it.
â€œBut unfortunately money is a huge barrier, so the opportunity Pirelli is giving me is second to none.
â€œIâ€™m under no illusions itâ€™s going to be tough at WRC level, but we have to make the most of the experience. Iâ€™m looking forward to developing myself as a driver.â€
John Kennard, co-driving for Paddon in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, said the young New Zealander had a strong future in the WRC.
â€œHeâ€™s an impressive young man. He had a three-year plan to win the New Zealand Rally Championship and he did it last year. Heâ€™s also leading the championship again with one round to go.â€
Pirelliâ€™s Motorsport Manager Paul Hembery said the Pirelli Star Driver scheme aimed to stimulate driver development outside rallyâ€™s traditional regions.
â€œWe have seen from this yearâ€™s first intake of Pirelli Star Drivers that itâ€™s been a great success. It takes away the financial barriers and allows talent to be recognised,â€ he said.
â€œIt will not only help the Pirelli Star Drivers in the WRC, but competition for future prizes will itself stimulate interest in rallying in many countries.â€
Drivers in the Repco Rally Australia shootout were Paddon, Chaodong Liu from China and, from Australia, Eli Evans, Nathan Quinn and Glen Raymond.
After contesting nine Special stages on Thursday night and yesterday morning, the drivers participated in a media conference at which their performance was judged by an expert panel.
The judges also assessed their performances in the pre-event shakedown, on the competitive stages and in personal interviews.
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