Kiwis are renowned as great adventurers. Sir Edmund Hillary, anybody? Sir Peter Blake? And what about Hayden Paddon?
I know, he’s not a natural fit alongside the fella who climbed Everest first or knew how to win an America’s Cup, but in May’s first fortnight, few will circumnavigate the globe as many times as the current European and New Zealand Championship leader.
His decision to tackle ERC round two in the Canaries will have him heading north out of NZ bound for Las Palmas, only to make the trip south days later to be back in the land of the long white cloud in time for Whangarei.
The North Island event done, he’s back on the big bird hours after the finish to make Rally Poland. Mikołajki in the bag and he’s home again. Days later, he’s away to Barbados. And 10 days before the Rally Islas Canarias, he’s in Italy for Rally Regione Piemonte.
It’s an insane schedule to most. Not to Paddon. Talking to him after his record-breaking 10th Otago Rally win, he points out that Dunedin was his seventh working weekend on the bounce.
“It feels a bit like the middle of the season already,” he smiled. “But why wouldn’t we do it? We do it because we love the sport. But, yeah, Canaries-Whangarei-Poland will be fairly full-on.
“Starting with Alba (Piemonte), we compete there but have to come home for some filming and partner work. Then we’re into three rallies in three weekends and a lot of time on a plane.”
Running a global rally program out of Cromwell, South Island, New Zealand is never going to be a job for somebody who’s not comfortably familiar with long-haul travel.
“You just have to plan accordingly,” Paddon assured DirtFish. “Make sure you get in the sleeping habit as soon as you get on the plane – re-set your watch to where you’re going. That buys you a day when you’re trying to get used to the new time zone. I’m always pretty good with the travel.”
The potential issue comes with the dark. Paddon smiles at the prospect of night stages.
“Yeah,” he said, “they can be a bit tough. Whangarei has a Friday night superspecial, I might be a little bit sleepy around there! Just kidding… I know my way around the place and adrenalin fixes everything. Put it into stage mode and you’re wide awake in no time.”
There’s a part of Paddon that simply can’t see what all the fuss is about. There are three rallies to do and he’s using public transport to get to them.
“You won’t hear me complaining,” he said. “We’re doing it because we love it! The travel to Europe has been a big part of my life – when we were planning for the [WRC] program [with Hyundai Motorsport] in 2019, the thinking was that I was going to be living more in New Zealand and traveling backwards and forwards. Obviously COVID intervened, but this is where I wanted to get to, living here in New Zealand.”
Surrounded by peaks recently painted by early fall snow, the place pops color and cool.
It’s not hard to understand what motivates Paddon to come home.