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After a stellar year including three round victories and winning the Pirelli Star Driver scholarship, Geraldine's Hayden Paddon and Team Green are looking forward to the championship finale in Nelson this weekend, and the chance to defend their New Zealand Rally Championship crown.

Paddon along with co-driver John Kennard will cross the start ramp in the heart of Nelson on Saturday with a 61 point lead. And with a maximum points haul of 74 points up for grabs over the two day event, the championship is far from in the bag.

However, Paddon needs only to finish ninth or better on one of the two days in Nelson to retain the title.

"We won't count our chickens before they hatch and will keep our heads screwed on and carry on doing the job we've been doing all season," he said.

"It is easier for us to continue driving at a comfortable pace rather than being conscious about taking it easy as that's when mistakes creep in".

The last time that Paddon and Kennard competed in Nelson was in 2007, driving their Mitsubishi Evo 8 to victory. After their successful Rally Australia campaign, the Evo 9 that has done them proud for the New Zealand championship will not make it back in time for the start, so Team Green have prepared the same Evo 8 that won in 2007 to tackle the fast flowing roads in and around the Golden Downs Forest complex.

"Sure the Evo 8 is not quite the package we have with the Evo 9, however in saying that the faster Nelson roads will not disadvantage the Evo 8 as much as some of the other rallies in the calendar."

The Geraldine driver, buoyed by earning a Pirelli Star Driver award, winning the Group N section and finishing ninth overall at the WRC Rally of Australia last weekend has since been preparing for what he describes "would be the icing on the cake".

"The last 10 days have been amazing, coming to terms of the thought of competing on the world stage next year. I must admit that keeping busy with the preparations for this weekend has helped me to get my feet grounded. To defend our title would mean so much to the whole team and all our sponsors."

Second-placed Emma Gilmour, of Hamilton, is the only driver still in contention to prevent Paddon retaining the title, which combined with tough competition from past NZ champions Richard Mason and Chris West, means Paddon is expecting a good battle for the win.

"I'm sure there will be several teams gunning for victory, but first and foremost our focus is the championship. With that in mind we will not involve ourselves in any battles on the opening day but it would be good to stay in contention so that we can wind the old girl up on the second day."
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