Paddon puts the Kiwis on the WRC map
In Argentina yesterday, Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon added his name to the list of World Championship rally winners. The 29-year-old New Zealander became the 76th driver to win in rallying’s premier class since it began in 1973, – and he did it in only his 23rd start in a World Rally-specification car.
Paddon first competed in the WRC in 2007, at the wheel of a Group N Mitsubishi, soon graduating to Group A machinery in the shape of a Subaru Impreza and Skoda Fabia S2000. His big break came in Catalunya in 2013, when he finished eighth in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
That performance put him firmly on the radar of returning factory team Hyundai, the Korean manufacturer entrusting him with a part programme in its i20 WRC. Some strong results across 2014 and ’15 confirmed his hot-property status and he was rewarded with a move into a full-time role for 2016.
Second in Sweden earlier in the year and fifth in Mexico last time out kept up the pressure on Paddon. Once VW’s Jari-Matti Latvala had crashed out of the lead in Argentina, Paddon kept his cool and held off triple World Champion Sébastien Ogier for that breakthrough win. And I doubt it’ll be his last.