Five young drivers have been selected to compete for the inaugural Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout and Scholarship, a programme developed by Kiwi world rally star Hayden Paddon and Hyundai New Zealand.
The collaboration aims to give a young New Zealand rally driver a major step-up with their motorsport career aspirations as well as providing the scholarship winner with the opportunity to drive the Hyundai NZ AP4 i20 rally car run by Paddon Rallysport in two rounds of the 2017 New Zealand Rally Championship, testing and training with Paddon, plus the potential for an expanded programme in 2018.
From more than 180 applicants, the following five drivers were selected as finalists for the December shootout weekend where they will participate with the co-driver of their choice:
· Max Bayley, 20, Hawke's Bay
· Sloan Cox, 24, Rotorua
· Job Quantock, 22, Ashburton
· Matt Summerfield, 24, Rangiora
· Dylan Thomson, 21, Waiuku
Paddon says: "We were all blown away by the interest and sheer quality of applications - some really good people missed out this time. It made our job really difficult to narrow it down to five finalists, but it's a sure sign how much our sport of rallying is growing and it's great that Hyundai New Zealand can help us to continue that growth with this scholarship."
Running near Auckland over the weekend of 9-10 December, the Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout includes lessons and assessments on fitness, how to identify and look after sponsors, nutrition, media presence, career planning, writing pace notes and car set-up. The finalists also get a day in the forest where they will be writing and driving to their own pace notes in the Hyundai AP4 car.
Paddon says he and fellow judges rally driver Reece Jones, talented teens Pinnacle Programme leader Bernice Mene, Newshub senior sports reporter Shaun Summerfield and former Rally New Zealand chairman Chris Carr aim to not only find the shootout winner but help them to develop throughout the classroom sessions.
"We want all finalists to take as much as they can away from the shootout weekend.
"We are not looking for the fastest driver - we are looking for someone with that X factor who has the ability to learn and develop into a leading rally driver, both nationally and internationally, while representing the Hyundai brand."
Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout and Scholarship was open to drivers aged 16-25 with applicants having contested a minimum of 10 rallies, including four pace-noted rallies.
Seven more applicants - Jack Williamson, Max Tregilgas, Michael McLean, Chris McLean, Ari Pettigrew and Jack Hawkeswood - have been invited to participate in the classroom day.
Paddon says: "It's extremely exciting to see so many young and very talented drivers apply even though this opportunity may be a little too early in their career due to experience and/or age. However, we felt it was a good opportunity to open the door to these seven drivers for the classroom sessions to learn and expand their knowledge to help with their development as rally competitors."
Bernice Mene, leader of the Hyundai NZ-based Pinnacle Programme, says: "The Hyundai NZ Young Driver shootout fits with the principles of the Pinnacle Programme as it encourages and enables talented young people to achieve their goals by exposing them to opportunities to further develop their skills and boost them to the next level."
"In the short term, the Hyundai NZ Young Driver Scholarship will focus on a New Zealand-based programme with the winner," says Paddon. "It's a fantastic chance for them to develop as a driver and all-round competitor, with the potential and goal of winning the 2018 New Zealand Rally Championship title as part of the scholarship. This would be a perfect base to work on to take the next step internationally."
Paddon says plans are in place to continue this scholarship in the future. "There will be many more opportunities for these young drivers, and others that missed out this time to potentially participate in the shootout in the years ahead.
"For those that did miss out this time, also keep an eye out for the Paddon Rally Foundation which we will officially launch within the next month. It's set up to provide financial assistance to many competitors of all levels."
Paddon adds: "Later this year, we will also be officially launching the Paddon Foundation which is separate to this scholarship, and will assist more the grass roots level of New Zealand rallying, encouraging and keeping more people into the sport."
The Hyundai NZ Young Driver Shootout and Scholarship winner will be announced on 11 December.