Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard are well aware of how much Kiwi rally fans and businesses helped in getting them to where they are now.
Paddon and his World Rally Championship team manufacturer Hyundai (the New Zealand arm) have constructed the first locally-built i20 rally car. On top of that, Paddon and Kennard are going to race in two rounds of the New Zealand Rally Championship in the 1.8-litre, turbo-charged car.
Kiwi fans will be able to get a taste of what overseas folk are able watch as Paddon hurls his i20 WRC lookalike around the gravel roads at Rally Otago, April 8-10 and the International Rally of Whangarei, April 29-May 1.
"I don't make any secret of the fact that I try to make as many of the New Zealand rallies as I can," said Paddon.
"After doing the classic rally last year, we worked on some ideas of how to get back here and race in a Hyundai. Otago and Whangarei are my two favourite rallies and are two of the best in the world.
"This whole thing [building a new car] gives me a great excuse to do some rallies back home."
The new car has been built and developed in conjunction with well-respected rally driver and constructor Andrew Hawkeswood at his Force Motorsport base in Auckland.
It is the first car in New Zealand to be built to the new AP4 (Asia Pacific) rally regulations and allows for a new, more affordable generation of four-wheel-drive, turbocharged rally car that is eligible for competition in both national and international events within the Asia Pacific region.
The car Paddon and Kennard are using is not strictly an AP4-spec car as the engine and aero package are different, but the chassis and idea are 100 per cent in keeping with AP4 regs.
"Halfway through last year we got talking to Andrew about building a Hyundai AP4 car and work started at Christmas.
"We can race the car in the NZRC as we don't really have any rules here and then continue to develop to be a full AP4 car that can be used to race in Asia. AP4 is very new and there aren't many of them around at the moment. Like any new formula, it will take a little longer for this car to catch on, but I believe that value for money is the key with this sort of car. While not at the same level, it has the same design principles and look of a WRC car," said Paddon.
Not content with just showcasing his international skills in front of his home crowd, he also launched his Paddon Foundation earlier this year. The concept is to help drivers and clubs financially, to a certain extent, but more importantly to create a platform for knowledge sharing both mechanically and business-wise.
"It's more than just about gong rallying. We're trying to help the sport in general. There are a number of initiatives we're working on at the moment and it's all part of a bigger picture.
"The foundation has just been set up and we'll be in a position to start helping people at the beginning of next year. We'll have a source of funds that we'll be able allocate to various drivers, co-drivers and car clubs.
"We're not just focusing on one or two drivers or someone who is racing over season, Sure, if there is someone outstanding we'll try and help of course, but it's more about getting people into the sport, continue in the sport and we'll also look at tutoring opportunities.
"It's a long-term project, not just for next year. I found it so hard to get funding," said Paddon.
Another aspect of the Hyundai New Zealand Rally Team will be the involvement of students from the Pinnacle Programme, a mentoring programme for talented 15-18 years old (headed by netball great Bernice Mene), at future NZRC events.
Paddon's next event is Rally Argentina, April 21-24.