Paddon on a “hiding to nothing” in New Zealand

He's not got much to gain but he's got everything to lose as the firm favorite in WRC2


David Evans couldn’t demonstrate the New Zealand fans’ love for Hayden Paddon any better when speaking to him at the end of the opening loop on Friday.

“Ten minutes ago, there was a huge cheer, a huge roar around here,” said Evans. “I thought crikey, they’ve noticed Sébastien Ogier. Not at all, it was all for you.”

Paddon might not be competing in the top tier of the World Rally Championship in New Zealand this weekend, but that doesn’t matter one bit to the Kiwi fans lining the stages and the service area.

All they care about is seeing their man hustle his Hyundai i20 N Rally2 on some of the world’s finest stages, which also happens to be their own backyard.

There’s a huge appreciation for what Paddon is trying to do. Building a New Zealand rally team, all with the aim of tackling WRC and European Rally Championship events, as well as at home in the New Zealand Rally Championship, is no easy feat at all, and the fans respect that.

They love the fact that he’s trying to push his country to the forefront in a discipline that he loves.

And for Paddon, this is what his whole year has been building up to. When he decided to go on the international circuit again, competing on WRC and ERC rounds, it was all with the view to taking a New Zealand team to a WRC event in its own country.

“It’s an amazing amount of support we get here at home and the amount of people we get backing us and all the messages we get off supporters,” Paddon explained to DirtFish.


“It’s awesome and that’s what we are trying to do with our team.

“OK we are in a Rally2 car, but we’re trying to get a New Zealand team and theme and feel behind it all so people can embrace it and feel part of it.”

As soon as he set off onto the first stage on Thursday morning he had already achieved one of his main objectives – to compete on a WRC event in his home country with a New Zealand team.

But that doesn’t mean his job is done, far from it. His next target is to win his class.

Naturally, being a home favorite, it’s also what the fans expect, and as Paddon admits, he’s on a bit of a “hiding to nothing”.

“We always knew that was the problem coming here in the Rally2 car because you’re on a bit of a hiding to nothing. But at the end of the day, we’ve still got a job to do.

“We’ve got a New Zealand championship to try and win, we’ve got WRC2 to try and win as well, but nothing’s a given.

“We’ve got a bit of a lead which was always the plan on the first one or two stages and now it’s about trying to manage it all the way through to the end.”

So far so good.

Paddon has won five out of the seven stages so far, putting himself firmly in control in WRC2, with a 1m01.5s lead over Kajetan Kajetanowicz.

But now he’s there he needs to make sure that he manages his driving well.

Go too slow and he won’t get the tires to switch on or the car to perform at its optimum level, putting him at risk of losing considerable amounts of time. Push too hard and well… we all saw what happened to Craig Breen.

It can all go wrong very quickly. It’s about finding that perfect balance, remaining just within your limits, and that’s exactly where Paddon plans to remain for the rest of the rally.

We’ve got nothing to gain by doing anything stupid Hayden Paddon

“We haven’t taken any risks. Whaanga [Coast] obviously I’ve got a bit of knowledge of so we just drove a really clean stage.

“As I say, no risks, no moments, and then since then it’s a matter of backing it off a notch.

“But you can’t back off too much because you need to make the car work and its tire work.

“But we’re just not taking any risks in our position which… we’re in no man’s land.

“We can’t catch anyone in front, so like you say, we’ve got nothing to gain by doing anything stupid.”

If Paddon can keep the rest of his weekend clean, there’s every chance he could cross the line as WRC2 victor on Sunday afternoon.


But while that will be an achievement that will go down well with both him and his team, there will also be a bittersweet frustration. The fact that he’s not competing in Rally1 machinery.

That was evident on the fifth test on Whaanga Coast. Coming to the stop line he was shaking his head.

Not because he’d made any mistakes, but because he was wishing he could have experienced that magical stage with the power of a Rally1 machine.

He’s itching to get back into top tier machinery deep down. But with a WRC2 victory under his belt, could it encourage some backers to give him the cash to take his team to Rally1 level?

Time will tell. But if that were to come to fruition, there would be nobody in the service area begrudging Paddon of the opportunity after the effort he’s put in to his team over the last few years.