Kiwi rally stars Hayden Paddon and John Kennard were delighted to secure first place in the Tour European Rally (TER) Championship category at Rally di Alba in Italy’s Piedmont region on 24 and 25 June. Driving a Hyundai i20 R5 car run by Hyundai Motorsport Italy (HMI), the pair were fourth overall, just 20 seconds behind the winner after nine special stages of tarmac competition.
With five years since Paddon last contested a tarmac rally, his expectations were modest. As the rally progressed, he was happy to get into the groove of tarmac competition once again to secure a solid result. With several top three times to their credit, the Kiwis were pleased to finish ahead of a French national and WRC2 champion and a 11-time Italian rally champion.
Now they have joined up with other members of the Hyundai New Zealand Rally team in Latvia where they took delivery of their brand-new Hyundai i20 N Rally2 car on Wednesday, ahead of competing in Rally Liepaja this weekend. The tight timeline means that they are looking at this rally, the Latvian round of the European Rally Championship running 1-3 July, as a test rally. They’ll try various setups and gather data about the car over the 12 special stages, as Paddon and Kennard get familiar with the freshly-built Rally2 car in preparation for their first scheduled WRC2 event in Estonia two weeks later.
Paddon’s quotes: “It’s great to get our European tour off to a good start with fourth place, out of 250 cars, at Rally di Alba and first place in the TER category in the Hyundai i20 R5.
“With five years since our last tarmac rally, our expectations were quite low. The car and the road surface felt very foreign on our test day which was the same day I hopped off the plane from New Zealand. With the level of competition here in Italy we thought a top ten result would be good. However, as the rally progressed, we got more and more into a groove, setting several top three times. At the end, we were only 20 seconds from the lead and were pleased to finish ahead of a French national and WRC2 champion and a 11-time Italian rally champion. Overall, it was a very enjoyable weekend and big thanks to the HMI team who ran us.
“We’re excited to take delivery of the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 car in Latvia. It was a big push by Hyundai Motorsport to get the car built in time for us, so the first opportunity for me and John to sit in it will be at shakedown for Rally Liepaja on Friday 1 July.
“We’re treating this weekend’s event in Latvia as a test rally, trying many different setups and gathering as much data as we can over the 12 special stages. We’ll still give it our best shot, but there’s a lot to learn about the car which we’d normally do on a pre-event test. It can’t be helped that there’s no time for a pre-event test in this case, and the car’s signwriting in its iconic black and white Kiwi livery will also have to wait until after this weekend’s rally. We are very much looking forward to driving the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 car and finding out more about this awesome rally car.”
Hyundai New Zealand CEO Andy Sinclair is thrilled yet unsurprised that Paddon’s European campaign has provided positive results already.
“Hayden and John are a world-class pair,” Andy says. “Despite not competing overseas over the last few years, they and the team have been busy preparing themselves for this inevitable return. We now look forward to seeing how the team performs with our new Hyundai i20 N Rally2 car.”
Paddon and Hyundai New Zealand Rally appreciate the support of Hyundai New Zealand, Mitre 10 Trade, Z Energy, Makita, Bailey Caravans, Ben Nevis Station, Winmax Brakes, Gravity Internet, Pak N’ Save, Bars Bugs, Pirelli, OMP/Racer Products, Mike Greer Homes, Bartercard, Accessman, Sign It Signs, Carters Tyre Service, ETCO and Provident Insurance.