In these days of self-isolation, Hayden Paddon has probably got the edge over most of us.
New Zealand’s most successful rally driver is, like everybody, hunkered down at home. But not everybody lives at Highlands Motorsport Park like the Paddon does. And who’s he sharing that space with? The ‘Green Machine’.
Every driver has a special car in their career. In fact, every driver has lots of special cars. The Hyundai i20 WRC he used to edge Sébastien Ogier to victory on the 2016 Rally Argentina will, no doubt, be a special car for him. But the Green Machine – the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX – is the one which really made things happen for Paddon.
“We built it as a brand new car with our own team in 2008,” he told DirtFish. “We built it as a full Group N car. We then won the 2008 and 2009 New Zealand Championships in it.”
As if domestic success wasn’t enough for Paddon and Team Green, he used the car to land the Asia Pacific slot for the 2010 Pirelli Star Driver scheme.
“That was a million-dollar [NZ dollar] prize for six rounds of the World Rally Championship in PWRC,” said Paddon.
“As well as the Pirelli drives in an Evo X, we used the Green Machine on Rally New Zealand, where I took my first PWRC win, and Rally Japan where we finished second.”
A couple of years later, the Green Machine suffered its biggest blow when a ball joint broke and sent it off the road on a sponsor day. Paddon’s beloved Evo IX was demolished.
“The car got totally rebuilt after that,” he said, “and we competed and won the 2013 NZ Championship, running it in Group A-spec – this was our gap year in WRC.”
As Paddon was at the factory Hyundai team from 2014, the Green Machine gathered dust. And that was the story until the world started talking about COVID-19. The onset of Coronavirus has given Paddon a window of opportunity.
“The car is in good condition,” he said, “it’s just a matter of doing a pre-season rebuild to make it like new. I’m going to touch-up all the paint, polish all the bolts and generally rebuild it. The car will be driveable, but I won’t use in competition again.
“It’s a car that means a lot to us and we’ll want to keep it in this condition.”
So, once self-isolation’s all done, Paddon’s Green Machine will be up and running.
When we write about Paddon ‘living’ at the workshop, it’s worth adding he’s not exactly slumming it.
The Highlands Motorsport Park is a 45-minute drive from Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island. Alongside the purpose-built circuit, there are a bunch of apartments with big windows looking out onto the track, the workshops and the stunning Otago countryside which surrounds.
In short, it’s not a bad place to get your head down. Or rebuild your beloved Lancer Evo IX.