Dale Budge is a sports writer for the NZ Herald.

Motorsport: Brit is the new partner for Paddon

New Zealand rally ace Hayden Paddon has named the replacement for co-driver John Kennard (left) this week. Photo / Michael Vettas
New Zealand rally ace Hayden Paddon has named the replacement for co-driver John Kennard (left) this week. Photo / Michael Vettas

Kiwi rally star Hayden Paddon has named a replacement for John Kennard as co-driver for the second half of the 2017 season and beyond.

Paddon and Kennard have announced their 12-year partnership will finish at this year's Rally Finland.

Britain's Seb Marshall will replace the 58-year-old Kennard as Paddon aims to become world champion as early as next season.

The 28-year-old Marshall began his co-driving career in 2008 and has progressed through the categories before making his way into WRC when he was co-driver for Dutchman Kevin Abbring as part of the Hyundai World Rally Team in 2015 that Paddon represents.

With Abbring not in a fulltime WRC drive this season and Marshall already being used on Paddon's gravel crew that assesses road conditions at rallies, it should be a fairly seamless transition for the Brit to partner with Paddon.

Meanwhile, Paddon admits the decision to split has been spoken about for some time.

"A very difficult decision for both of us to make," Paddon said.

"It certainly hasn't been taken lightly. We have talked on and off about it over the past couple of years.

"I want to be in the sport for a long time yet and John is not getting any younger unfortunately.

"He has been involved in the sport for a long time and there comes a time when he would like to settle down, spend some more time in New Zealand and make some more wine maybe.

"I can't thank John enough for everything he's contributed in these 12 years, but this is not the end. He will stay involved, helping me behind the scenes and, as he has played an important part in the journey so far, it's only natural that he remains a part of it.

"In terms of who the new co-driver will be - we will have some news on that very soon but we do have something in pipeline."

Kennard, who returned to New Zealand yesterday for a short break, said stepping away won't be easy after a close and successful relationship over such a long period.

"It is just getting to the point where I am getting older and you are getting deeper and deeper into it," he said.

"The focus has always been on winning the championship in 2018 and we've been talking about it [the split] seriously since Germany last year and so it has taken a year to happen. To have been his co-driver for so long has been incredibly fulfilling and rewarding."

Kennard won't be leaving Paddon altogether, however. He will stay on and assist in other areas outside the car.

"I will take over doing the gravel notes and carry on with the mentoring and those sort of things - whatever Hayden needs really," said Kennard.

- NZ Herald

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