Rally New Zealand organisers have confirmed Hayden Paddon will be an official ambassador for the Auckland-based event.
Confirmation of Paddon’s alliance with the rally comes as organisers reveal Mt Smart Stadium will host a Super Special Stage on the Friday and Saturday of the event.
Speaking at the announcement on Tuesday, Paddon said he’s still working hard to sort out a drive for his home rally.
“Rally New Zealand is a hugely exciting event for New Zealand – for the first time Kiwi fans will get to see modern-era World Rally Championship cars and drivers battle it out in our own backyard,” Paddon said.
“I would love nothing more than to win this event in a World Rally Championship car and hopefully I get this opportunity.”
Paddon was dealt a double blow in 2019. An attempt to make his return failed twice, first because of a pre-event crash at Rally Finland and then due to bushfires at Rally Australia.
The Geraldine driver forged a partnership with M-Sport that saw him contest one round of the WRC 2 Championship in a Ford Fiesta R5. Since then he hasn’t featured on the world stage, instead, focusing on local projects such as his Ben Nevis Golden 1200 Hillclimb.
Rally New Zealand Chief Executive Michael Goldstein said also confirmed Hyundai New Zealand an elite sponsor for the event.
“It is so fitting for Hyundai New Zealand to be announced today as our first elite sponsor,” Goldstein said.
“They have been behind this event for years as we’ve lobbied to bring the World Rally Championship back and they are huge supporters of rallying in this country, from their association with Hayden Paddon to their support of various grassroots rallying events across the country.
“We are thrilled that Hayden has agreed to be our ambassador and of course that Hyundai New Zealand has backed Rally New Zealand.”
Hyundai New Zealand General Manager Andy Sinclair said: “We are excited about the return of WRC to New Zealand shores, and are proud to announce our support of Rally New Zealand.
“Locally, we’ve been involved in rallying since 2014 when we established the Hyundai New Zealand rally team with Hayden. Not only will Hayden play an integral part in Rally New Zealand as the event ambassador, but he will also help bring our campaign to life in the lead-up and during the event.
“We’re also excited to welcome back the Hyundai world rally team to our country to compete in their first Rally New Zealand since 2003, and will be working with them on their WRC campaign.”
The FIA World Rally Championship returns for Rally New Zealand over 3-6 September.
Photo: Brett Phibbs / Rally New Zealand