Former PWRC champion HaydenPaddon is one of the best-known and most successful rally drivers from New Zealand and considering his age, best is still to come for this Kiwi.
Following father's footsteps
Paddon was born on 20th of April, 1987 in Geraldine, a village on Southern Island, about 140 km south of Christchurch. Hayden’s father also was a rally driver so it’s not surprising that he followed in his father’s footsteps. His first racing experience was in karting and at the age of 15 Paddon debuted in some smaller rally events.
Hayden Paddon, rally racer from New Zealand
Hayden had an early debut in the World Rally Championship
He had to wait until 2006 for the first appearance in the New Zealand Rally Championship. Driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Paddon won both Junior and Rookie titles, announcing that he is ready for bigger tasks. The following year, the New Zealander debuted in the World Rally Championship. He was given a wildcard for the New Zealand rally, in which Paddon competed in the Production category, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer. The same year, he got another chance with Team Jordan at Rally Great Britain, the last event of the season.
Video : Hayden Paddon test day at New Zealand
The rally champion of New Zealand
After finishing as a New Zealand Rally Championship runner-up in 2007, Hayden Paddon won the national title the next year, driving a new Mitsubishi Evo IX. Again, Paddon competed in his home round of WRC finishing 4th in Production category and 13th overall.
In 2009, Paddon again took part in only one WRC event, in Australia, but impressed and surprised many finishing ahead of most regular Production category drivers. For his success, he was awarded Pirelli Star Driver scholarship which allowed him to compete in six WRC events in the following season. After winning the International Rising Stars scholarship too, Paddon earned more funds, and that almost had him settled down for the full 2010 season.
Hayden Paddon, one of the future WRC stars
The PWRC champion
That year, the New Zealander entered eight World Rally Championship events. He had won the PWRC category at his home race and finished second and third in Finland and Germany, while his best overall finish was in Japan where he was 12th.
With a newly formed New Zealand World Rally Team, Paddon competed in all six of PWRC rounds in 2011. Surprisingly, Hayden decided to switch from Mitsubishi to Subaru Impreza and that proved to be a smart move. In what turned out to be his best season so far, Paddon won the Production World Rally Championship title, being the fastest in the four consecutive PWRC rounds – Portugal, Argentina, Finland and Australia. For the first time in his career, he managed to break through into the WRC Top 10 overall at the races in Argentina and Australia.
2011 PWRC champion Hayden Paddon in Mitsubishi
Two years in Skoda
For the 2012 campaign, Paddon moved to the S-WRC category (now known as WRC-2), driving a Skoda Fabia. The results were pretty good as he clinched the class win in Portugal and 4th place in Sweden. In the following year, Hayden’s best result was 8th place overall in Germany, again behind the wheel of Skoda Fabia. He achieved the same result in Spain, but this time driving a Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
Hayden Paddon, driving a Skoda Fabia
Further progress in the WRC comes with Hyundai
The progress continued in 2014 when Paddon became a member of the Hyundai Motorsport N team. For the first time in his career, he had won a stage in WRC, during the Rally Catalunya in Spain. Hayden scored points in five rallies that year, and he finished 14th in the WRC Drivers’ championship. 2015 proved to be even more successful for Hayden Paddon; driving a Hyundai i20, he was 9th at the end of the season with 84 points on his account. That year, he was in the lead for one WRC round for the first time, and was 2nd in the end in Italy behind the amazingly good Sebastien Ogier.
In 2015 Rally d’Italia, Hayden became the first driver from New Zealand to lead the WRC event, since Possum Bourne who was leading the New Zealand rally in 1999. If he continues to progress like he did through the years, Paddon has an opportunity to exceed the glory and success of his compatriot.
Hayden Paddon driving a Hyundai i20 at the 2014 Rally Sardegna WRC
Good partnership with John Kennard
From the start of his WRC career, Paddon had only one co-driver, his well-experienced compatriot John Kennard who was born in 1959 and who has architecture background and runs his own wine business. The age difference between the two seems to be a good combination of talent and experience.