Hayden Paddon will kick off his team’s biggest year to date with this weekend’s Ben Nevis Golden 1200 – a hillclimb organized by Paddon Rallysport.
The 2016 Rally Argentina winner is chasing three 2020 titles with his Hyundai i20 AP4. Success at home would mean a fifth New Zealand Rally Championship title and he’s also chasing a successful defence of his 2019 FIA Pacific Cup win. But the biggest championship prize for Paddon this year would be the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship – and the chance to emulate his hero ‘Possum’ Bourne, who scored the third of his three APRC wins in 2000.
Paddon’s first two New Zealand rounds – Rally Otago on April 3-5 and the International Rally of Whangarei on May 8-10 – qualify for the Pacific Cup. Success there means a place at the winner-takes-all APRC final, Rally Coffs Harbour (November 27-29).
John Kennard and Samantha Gray will share the co-driver’s seat in an i20 which has benefited from some closed-season upgrades.
“I’m really excited for the year ahead and actually having a structured pursuit towards more than one championship,” Paddon said. “It’s going to be a very busy year for our team which will be a challenge, but we’re all looking forward to putting our best foot forward and continuing to improve.
“We started this vision with Hyundai New Zealand in 2016 and, year-on-year, this vision has grown, with 2020 our biggest year to date. We have a young, but very motivated, team who will deliver this competitive programme alongside the build and development of our EV rally car. We are looking forward to getting into some of our favourite events in the world.”
Paddon Rallysport remains committed to the all-electric Kona EV it announced in August last year – working in association with University of Canterbury and Manfred Stohl’s Stohl Advanced Research and Development outfit.
In addition to this weekend’s inaugural Ben Nevis Golden 1200, based close to Paddon Rallysport’s base in Cromwell, Canterbury, Central Otago, the i20 AP4 will be transformed into full-aero, 600bhp specification for September’s Ashley Forest Rallysprint.
The Ben Nevis Golden 1200 includes three runs per day of the 3.6-mile gravel road in New Zealand, with the finals coming on Sunday afternoon.