Motorsport: WRC drive beckons for Paddon in Spain

Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are stepping up to the full WRC. Picture / Honza Fronek.
Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are stepping up to the full WRC. Picture / Honza Fronek.

Hayden Paddon and John Kennard will step up to the full World Rally Championship competition in October with confirmation the pair will get behind the wheel at Rally de Espana.

Paddon and Kennard will compete for the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, running in full factory colours as part of the M-Sport team.

It's the first time Paddon has competed in a full world rally car and the 26-year-old also becomes the first New Zealander to compete in a new generation WRC model.

"To say I'm excited is an understatement, but I am also focused on ensuring that we make the most of this opportunity,'' Paddon said.

"I don't want to just be in a WRC car for a one-off event, this is what I want to make my career out of.''

The opportunity to drive a WRC car in full competition is one Paddon and his management team have been chasing for some time.

The 2011 FIA Production Car World Rally Champion said the chance came up following his most recent international event, WRC Rally Australia, where he was setting times faster than some WRC competitors while driving a less powerful, Super 2000-spec model.

"After some discussions, we were offered this great opportunity and it's amazing to finally get our chance in a WRC car. While it has been a lot of hard work over the past few seasons to get to this point, we are conscious that the level of hard work will in fact increase even further as this is very much our chance to try and showcase what we can do to ultimately move further forward in the sport and towards 2014.''

Paddon and his Blenheim-based, long-term co-driver John Kennard, aren't strangers to the Spanish event which mixes two days of tarmac with a day of gravel stages.

Paddon will have the benefit of a small test with M-Sport prior to the October 24-27 event, trying the 300 hp, 1.6-litre turbo-charged Fiesta on both gravel and tarmac.

"Naturally I want to be competitive and will be giving it our utmost to set some good stage times. However it is also important to make sure we finish the rally to gain as much experience behind the wheel of a WRC car for the first time,'' Paddon said.

"Ultimately we are trying to market ourselves for 2014 and this amazing opportunity to compete in a Fiesta RS WRC with such a respected team as UK-based M-Sport gives us that chance.''

- APNZ

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