International rally star Hayden Paddon has confirmed he will compete in November’s Coffs Coast Rally.
With the event hosting both the finale of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) and the RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC), Paddon will be in a Hyundai alongside regular co-driver John Kennard for the title fight.
It’s been a busy year for Paddon so far after an impressive stint in Europe in both the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) and the FIA European Rally Championship, as well as claiming three wins from three rounds in the 2022 New Zealand Rally Championship.
His success in the NZ Rally Championship has seen him qualify for November’s APRC finale on the Coffs Coast, where he is likely to lead a five-crew Kiwi charge.
While there is still plenty of time between now and November, Paddon has a jam-packed schedule on the cards, which includes his current trip to the UK for the Get Connected Rali Ceredigion and next month’s Rally New Zealand where he will be up against Australia’s own Harry Bates.
With Bates part of what will be a strong line up of crews entered in the APRC, Paddon was excited for the challenge.
“It’s been a very busy program in 2022 as we’ve got a few projects on the go, but I guess we’ve got this nice luxury of having three cars at our disposal, so it’s all hands-on deck,” Paddon said.
“It can be quite challenging particularly when navigating our way through different championships in different countries, however we just have to find a way and as long as we are there at the start line of the events, that’s all that matters.
“As for the APRC, there is a lot up for grabs being a one round shootout for the title. Even though it’s one event, at the end of the day, it still has the same title and the same trophy, which has a lot of history behind it, and I would love to have the opportunity to win this championship.
“Because of that, it puts a lot of pressure on the one rally. These events are not just about being as fast as the local competition, you’ve got to make it to the finish in a situation where you only get one shot.
“With that said, I’m looking forward to the rally, especially going up against the likes of Harry. We have been up against Harry before and he will be very fierce throughout, so I expect it to be a good fight.
“So, in that instance, we’re excited because we enjoy close competition. Not only is it good from a spectator’s point of view, but also from our point of view. It pushes you on and makes it quite exciting.”
Although it’s been quite some time since Paddon has been to the Coffs Coast, the New Zealander has plenty of previous experience to work off – having contested seven Rally Australia events in the New South Wales town between 2011 and 2018.
During that time, Paddon finished in the outright WRC top 10 on all but one occasion and picked up WRC podiums in both 2017 and 2018 – marking a successful era on the Coffs Coast for the Kiwi.
Ahead of his return to the picturesque coastal region, Paddon was looking forward to an event close to his heart.
“I’ve always enjoyed the Coffs Coast roads – it’s always been one of my favourite rounds of the WRC,” Paddon explained.
“From a competitor’s point of view, it has quite a nice and relaxed vibe for a rally, the local community get behind the rally and support us, so it was always one that we enjoyed.
“I particularly love the public road stages we used to do in the Nambucca region, but I believe they won’t be in this year’s rally. In saying that, there are still plenty of the forestry stages, which are similar in character.
“Obviously there will be some slight differences but we’ve got a pretty good idea on what to expect and we know the weather plays a big part. If it’s dry, they’re quite nice conditions but if is raining, like I did on the previous two Sundays we were there, it turns it into an absolute mud bath.
“With this year being in late November instead of September like when we used to do it, I’m expecting it to be a warm rally, which means there will put a lot more pressure and stress on the cars, components, cooling system and tyre wear.
“It does change the dynamics of the rally a little bit but, nothing we can’t handle. It does mean that we must consider it with our planning.
“All in all, the whole team is looking forward to it and we’re enjoying being able to do some international rallies again. It’s nice to spread our wings a little bit again and experience some different rallies.”
The Coffs Coast Rally takes place on the Coffs Coast on 25-27 November 2022.