Name: Hayden Paddon
Age: 28 (20/4/87)
Hometown: Geraldine, South Island, NZ
Started Motorsport: Age 6 (go-karts)
First Car: Mini Leyland
First Rally: 2002 Hamner Rally (age 15)
First Overall Rally win: Whangarei 2007
Favourite Colour: Green
Favourite Food: Salmon and raw sweet treats
Favourite Film: The Walk, any true story movies
Idols: Colin McRae, Possum Bourne
Holiday Destination: Las Vegas, USA
Sports: Golf, Mountain Biking, Gym, Cricket
Other Interests: Business, most sports, Formula 1, RallyX
Favourite Band: Coldplay, Monsters of Men, Snow Patrol
Favourite Rally Stage: Kuri Bush, Rally Otago, NZ
Best Results: 2nd overall WRC Rally Sardenga 2015, 5 PWRC victories, 14 NZRC victories
Favourite Quote: Don’t just dream it – ACHIEVE IT
Memorable moment: Winning first WRC stage Rally Spain 2014 in very difficult/dusty conditions
Rallying is a sport that has been part of the Paddon family for quite some time. Hayden’s father Chris first got into motorsport at the age of 22, competing in club events around the South Island in numerous cars. Born in 1987, Hayden was introduced to motorsport at a young age. At first he accompanied his Dad to rallies, before he was old enough to service for him. Chris went on to win the 1999 Mainland Series (South Island) 2WD and 1600cc Championship.
Hayden then started driving go-karts at the age of 6. His first kart was one that his Dad built for him, powered by a chainsaw engine. His first events were remembered for getting a one lap head start on his competitors, to then by the end of the second lap, being passed.
After stepping up to a bigger kart he was soon achieving respectable results, both regionally and nationally. Some of his notable results were South Canterbury Champion, and runner up in the South Island Championships two years running. At the age of 10 he progressed to purpose built tarmac karts; a totally different level, based out of Carrs Road in Christchurch. All the karts were identical, and weight restrictions were imposed to make the competition as close as possible. Hayden thrived on the challenge though and was immediately at the front of the field.
He managed 3rd in the Canterbury Champs in 1997, followed by becoming Canterbury Champion in 1998, and then runner up in the 1999 Canterbury Club Championship (consisting of 10 months of competition).
Despite the driving lessons from Hayden’s father on the farm from a young age, Hayden got his hands on his first proper car at the age of 13 – a Mini. Hayden stripped it out himself, before competing in his first event, held by the Ashburton Car Club. The event was a grass motorkhana (a skilled time trial event based around planned courses) held at a local airfield. Out of the 22 competing, Hayden finished a respectable 10th overall in a standard Mini. That was the start.
With the Ashburton Car Club he competed in many motorkhanas and autocrosses over a period of 2-3 years. This was where he crafted his driving skills, coupled with ongoing help and advice from his father. In his first full season in the club he won the Junior Championship.
The following year Hayden started to build the Mini into more than just a standard ‘brick’. Work undertaken included a bigger engine, suspension developments and weight reduction. This process gave Hayden his introduction to mechanical work and building cars – something that would prove valuable for the future. That year he won 5 of the 7 motorkhanas, and an autocross, on his way to winning the Motorkhana Championship and 0-1300cc Championship.
At the same time Hayden began co-driving for his father in his Toyota Levin, competing in Mainland Series events. The first event he co-drove in was the 2001 Southland Rally, as 0 (safety) car. This was made even more interesting for him as he didn’t know he was co-driving until they were only a few hours away from Invercargill. He then went onto co-drive for his father later the same year in the Timaru Rally, where he was a passenger in his first crash, when the car slipped off the road and into a ditch.
2002 brought new challenges and a new direction, as Hayden got his first taste of the gravel. It was a mix of driving his Mini and his Dad’s Toyota Levin. His first event in the Corolla was on his 15th birthday, in the Ashley Forest Rally Sprint (the youngest person ever to do the popular rallysprint). Throughout the year he continued to do local events in the Mini, and also more events in is fathers Levin. This included more gravel rally sprints, and beating his father for the first time at a local tarmac sprint.
However, 2002 also presented Hayden his first crash as a driver. Driving the Mini in an autocross, Hayden was in a dogfight for victory with 2 other competitors and was pushing hard to go for the win. On his final run of the day, he hit a rut sideways at the end of a 130kmph straight, sending the car into a barrel roll. The car rolled twice and as it didn’t have a roll cage, the roof caved in quite considerably. He was lucky to escape with just whiplash, but the car was a write off. A night at the hospital was in order however as precaution.
Hayden’s father put the question to Hayden at the age of 12 – ‘how are you going to fund your racing?’. Hayden’s response was to get 3 jobs. So he did. Doing the morning 5am paper run was followed by school or in the school holidays working for his father’s business. Then in the evenings he would work at the local Fish n’ Chip shop. After finishing school in 2004 Hayden then worked as a sales and parts person at a local Motorbike store.
While the money he earned helped to cover some of the bill to fuel his passion, it become clear to Hayden that it wasn’t enough. During the later years of competing in the Mini and starting in the Toyota, he came up with the idea of getting is local town (Geraldine) behind him. So a campaign ‘Shop Geraldine’ was born. At the age of 13 equipped with sponsorship proposals, Hayden went around each and every Geraldine business, eventfully getting 15 companies onboard at $100 each per year. This campaign continued for 3 years, and it is where he crafted his skills of working with and looking after sponsors. Sponsor activities included demonstrations and shows, car washes and local stores, flyers and brochure distribution and inviting guests to events – this at the age of 14.
As the years progressed, the financial input became more and more, and while Hayden has always putting every dollar into rallying, it became more and more apparent that more was needed. While Hayden’s father helped a lot in the early years of the rallying, as he started to consolidate his place in NZ rallying and building a greater profile, more long term partners became involved. Also winning the Rally NZ $50,000 Rising Star Scholarship in 2009 helped to then win the 2010 Pirelli Star Driver Scholarship.
Two weeks later he competed in is first rally, at Hanmer, back in the his fathers Toyota Levin. Aged 15, Hayden competed in the event with learner ‘L’ plates, which created a bit of interest and laughter. Seeded 24, he managed to end the event in 18th overall and 4th in class with co-driver and friend Richard Fincham alongside. Later that same year he competed in his local Timaru Rally, where he got quicker and quicker by the stage. By the end of the event he had raced up to 18th overall and took class victory by over a minute. So 2002 was a year that wasn’t going to be forgotten in a hurry. Victories in the Mini, his first crash, first rally, and first rally class victory.
2003 was his first full rally championship, the Mainland Rally Series. Driving his fathers Toyota, he missed the first round at Otago, but joined the championship at Southland. After a 6 month absence from behind the wheel he finished 19th overall and 4th in class. This was backed up by a class victory at Christchurch and a 4th in class at Catlins. With no one dominating the class, Hayden found himself in a strong championship position. He finished 3rd in class at Nelson and then won the final round, Westland. The consistent results, with 2 victories, set him up to win the Mainland 2WD Championship and tied on points in the 1301-1600c Championship. This was the same feat that his father had achieved 4 years earlier.
With more sponsors, 2004 promised to be a bigger and better year. Once again driving his Dad’s car (Dad having now moved from the driver’s seat to team manager), they started their championship bid at round 3 of the 7 round series, in Timaru. Unfortunately, a puncture cost 20 minutes on stage 2, before they slid off the road and out of the event on the rallies 5th stage. So after round 3 the team had 1 point, while the class leaders had already collected 45 points. Hayden then did what was thought to be the impossible, as the whole team put in a huge effort to win the final 4 rounds in Canterbury, Catlins, Nelson and Westland, taking the 2004 1600cc class Mainland Rally Championship. His pace during the latter part of the season was outstanding, beating the more powerful national 2WD cars on stages at Nelson, and on the verge of top 10 overall rally results at Canterbury and the Coast.
With two successful seasons in the Levin under his belt, he thought it was time to step up. Selling his Toyota, Chris purchased the 1997 New Zealand Championship winning Mitsubishi Evo4. Partnered by new co-driver Nicole France, who also co-drove in the final 2 events of the 2004 Championship, Hayden and the team attacked the 2005 Mainland Series and New Zealand Rally Extreme Championships. The year was targeted solely at learning about the new car, but after a 3rd overall finish at the opening round in Southland, the team soon realised that event victories were a possibility. Their strong result was soon backed up by another excellent 4th overall finish at his local Timaru Rally. Hayden went into the 3rd round of the Mainland Series leading the championship, but unfortunately Catlins was the start of a run of bad luck that would last till the end of the year. Hayden retired from the event while leading, with a blown clutch. The team then ventured to the North Island for the Rally Extreme round, and Hayden’s first tarmac stages – the Greg Todd Memorial Rally. Unfortunately they had to retire from the morning after stage 2, with extensive frontal damage after an off road excursion on the slippery, wet tar. However, the crew did an amazing job and got the car back out for the afternoon’s gravel stages, where they set some competitive times considering the mornings damage meant they were well down on power.
The 4th round of the Mainland Series was the Nelson Rally, but once again their progress was hampered by mechanical gremlins. A bad engine misfire caused them to loose 5 minutes over the opening two stages, though later in the event Hayden managed a 3rd fastest stage time amongst the New Zealand National championship field, finishing behind two national champions.
When Hayden thought things wouldn’t get worse, 25 September 2005 proved them wrong. Competing in the 5th round of the Mainland Championship – Rally Canterbury, Hayden and co-driver Nicole left the road on stage 5, while leading the event. The car came to a halt on its side, but worse was to follow, when 10 minutes after the accident the car caught fire. Despite everyone’s best efforts, the fire could not be controlled and the car burnt to the ground. It was a total loss and the team ended the season a rally early and with no car. Their 2005 season included 11 stage wins while they lead on 4 different rallies.
At the start of 2006 the disasters of 2005 made it seem like an up hill battle to get any sort of campaign together. With no insurance for the car Hayden and his team were left thinking his career was over before it started. However, the whole New Zealand rally and South Canterbury community rallied around to help raise the funds for them to purchase a new car. This coupled with a new sponsor allowed the team to not only replace the 2005 car, but upgrade to a new Production Group N Mitsubishi Evo8 to attack their debut year in the New Zealand Rally Championship, New Zealand’s premier rally class. The car and team sported the same green colour scheme from the previous three years, and a new team name, “Team Green” was born.
2006 also brought a new co-driver, John Kennard. John had a wealth of overseas experience, in various world rally teams, which would be a great help to Hayden’s development. Also help him achieve his goal of making it to the WRC. So, with a new lease of life, new car and new championship, the team’s goals were to win the New Zealand Junior and Rookie titles in preparation for an all out assault on the overall title in 2007.
The championship opener in Dunedin was a mixed bag for the team, 10th and leading rookie on day one but a blown motor on the opening stage of day two brought their run to an abrupt end. Financial restraints meant the team could not make the journey north to the International Rally of Rotorua, but they did compete in a Mainland Rally in Southland. Once again they retired early with mechanical gremlins, while holding a strong 2nd. Round 3 of the NZ Championships, where after a bad start to the year. It was time to change their fortune and get back into contention for the rookie and junior titles. Taking maximum points in both championships at Whangarei, Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa did just that, and along with two top 5 overall finishes, in Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay, the team had a new found confidence and reliability.
Going into the final round in Nelson, the team were in the box seat to wrap up both titles. Day one was a relatively short leg, but the main priority was to get the necessary points for the championships. 4th on day 1 and their first stage victory was a good way to start the weekend. After the opening two stages of leg 2, Hayden and co-driver John held a strong 3rd, but then problems hit the duo over the next set of 3 stages which dropped them to 5th. They held onto 5th until the end which was enough to clinch both the 2006 New Zealand Junior and Rookie titles – Hayden becoming the youngest rally title winner in New Zealand at age 19. It was a great year made possible by a great team effort, and was sure to be a good platform for a strong showing in the 2007 New Zealand Championship.
After a successful learning year in 2006, the goal for 2007 was to show more speed and look towards outright victories. After more development and testing of the car during the off season, the team hit the ground running, with a fine 3rd overall at the opening round in Otago. It was a sign of bigger things to come, as they headed to the Asia Pacific round in Whangarei. This was a rally where everything clicked, and despite a bird’s best effort to go through the front window, Hayden and co-driver John steered their way to Hayden’s first rally victory. In doing so beating all the international teams home and becoming the youngest person to ever win a FIA Asia Pacific Rally. Hayden described the victory as totally out of the blue and it took some time to sink in. As championship leader going into the third round, in the Wairarapa, they had the honour of sweeping the road for the first time, and it turned out to be a steep learning curve. Progressively lifting their speed stage by stage in the slippery conditions, they ended the rally in 3rd.
Then, on the single leg event in Hawkes Bay, in wet conditions, Hayden struggled to adapt, but, after a couple of new stage records, he clawed his way back to 4th and into the championship lead again. The 5th round was the International Rally of New Zealand, New Zealand’s round of the World Rally Championship, where the team also had a wild card entry into the Production WRC. Having set the 5th fastest Group N time on the opening stage, against some of the world’s best production car drivers, they ground to a halt on the second stage with gearbox failure. After their previous great form, Hayden described being totally gutted, both for the NZ championship and in front of the world audience. They rejoined for day 2 to amass more points for their national campaign, but would go to Nelson 20 points adrift of the championship lead, with only 32 points up for grabs. The team did all they could, Hayden driving his heart out and winning all but one stage. A convincing rally win, but an agonising one point off the overall championship victory. Hayden did however wrap up the NZ Junior title for a second year.
To top the year off Hayden had another PWRC experience, this time as Team Jordan driver in the season ending WRC Wales Rally GB. Wanting to prove himself on the international scene, the rally got off to the worst possible start. After being in the top 5 in the early splits, they hit a culvert on the inside of a slow corner which broke the steering tie-rod and had to crawl through the stage with a wheel hanging off. Unfortunately they could not make roadside repairs, so their rally was short lived. They rejoined again for Day 2, only for the front subframe to collapse, ending their rally for good. Reflecting on a trying and devastating rally, Hayden described it as character building, though encouraging him to be back bigger and stronger next time.
For 2008 Hayden and his trusted team built a brand new left-hand drive Mitsubishi Evo9, so he could adapt to left hand drive early in his career, in readiness for any offshore opportunities he may get. After coming so close to the NZ championship in 2007 the team were committed to going one better. The season did not get off to a great start, hitting a berm only a few km’s into the opening stage of the opening round and crawling through the remaining stages before service with broken intercooler pipes. Throughout the remainder of the event Hayden got more and more used to the left hand drive car and recovered to 3rd for the weekend
Between rounds, Hayden competed in his local rally, the Rally of South Canterbury. It had been a rally that Hayden had long wanted to win, and this year was his year. Winning 6 of the 8 stages on the way to a convincing victory while testing and developing the car.
Round two of the NZ championship was at Otago, and immediately the team showed improved speed from round one. A close fought 2nd place on day one was followed by another 2nd on day two, to move the team into 2nd on the championship ladder.
Next was Whangarei, and as defending champions Hayden wanted to prove the 2007 victory was no fluke. The team did just that, winning Day 2 and finishing second overall, again beating all the international teams and taking the championship lead.
The fourth round was a rain shortened Rally Hawkes Bay, which had been reduced to one day due to flooding. After the car arrived at the event only minutes before the first stage, due to delays crossing from the South Island, Hayden and John went on to win 5 of the 6 stages, a convincing victory that allowed them to further extend their championship lead.
At Rally of New Zealand they again had the privilege of gaining one of the wild car entries for the PWRC. With a new control tyre, of which Hayden had no experience, being used by all entrants for World Championship events, and with Hayden violently ill leading up to the rally, the team struggled to adapt to the new tyres throughout the event. Frustrated that he wasn’t showing the speed he knew he was capable of, they hung in and got to the end of the event. Despite the rally not going to plan it was a career best result; 13th overall, 1st Kiwi, 4th in the world PWRC class and the youngest ever New Zealand Rally Champion at the age of just twenty-one.
“It is amazing to achieve our 3 year plan to win the championship and it has been a massive team effort. It took some time to sink in, but hopefully this is the start of a journey to achieving my ultimate goal of becoming a world rally champion”, described Hayden after their Championship victory. Co-driver John also won the co-drivers championship, his second Gold star title after winning the New Zealand Navigational Trails championship in the 80’s.
After winning the championship with one round remaining, the team missed Hayden’s favourite rally, Nelson. They instead had the Pirelli Star Driver scholarship final in Malaysia to concentrate on, offering the chance to win a fully funded drive on 6 rallies in the 2009 World Rally Championship. Hayden and the team had only one result in mind, to win, but were also realistic about the challenges a new event would throw at them. The first stage got off to a good strong start, despite a technical glitch with the car that was rectified at first service. They were sitting comfortably 2nd in the Pirelli standings and ready to pounce. Unfortunately on the slippery third stage Hayden made a small driving error that left the car stranded in the middle of the road after hitting a road-side palm tree and going no further. Hayden was devastated; a life long dream would have to go on hold for another year. The team worked miracles to get the front end of the car completely rebuilt overnight, so they could rejoin on day two to gain experience. Even with a bent and battered car, they managed to win two stages outright and move back into 3rd in the overall Pirelli standings for the weekend. They still left Malaysia feeling dejected, but at the same time having learnt a lot for future events.
Onto 2009 and little did Hayden and the team know at the time, but this was to be the year that was to be their major breakthrough into the World Rally Championship and the start of a new era in Hayden’s career. The team entered into both the New Zealand Rally Championship and the FIA Pacific Cup, which was incorporated into the Asia Pacific Championship.
The first two Pacific Cup rounds in New Caledonia and Queensland the team used their older Evo 8 from 2007. Their championship could not have got off to a worse start, a blown gearbox side-lining the team on day 1 at New Caledonia while day 2 was rained off after torrential rain overnight made the mountain stages impassable. Then onto Queensland, and on day 1 a heavy impact through a ford crossing smashed the rear diff to bits – having to crawl through the next three stages before getting to service. They finished the day recovering to get maximum points for the Pacific Cup despite their 5 minute time loss. Day 2 and things were still going well setting competitive times in the older car against the locals. However, on the same ford crossing from day 1 but in reverse direction claimed Hayden again on the final stage of the rally, unfortunately this time crushing the rear suspension to bits. The car ground to a halt, but due to Hayden and John’s persistence were able to make road side repairs enabling them to limp out of the stage on three wheels. Due to the retirements of others, by finishing they were able to claim points for second place in the Pacific Cup. As a result of their outright victory in Rally Whangarei and their persistence and determination at Queensland the team won their first international championship, the FIA Pacific Cup.
The New Zealand Rally Championship was contested over five rounds including Hawkes Bay, Otago, Whangarei, Wairarapa and Nelson. The championship did not get off to the best start for the defending champions, driving their left-hand drive Evo 9. A string of set-up and technical glitches at the first round meant that they could only achieve second place for the championship opener. Nevertheless, this was the start of Team Green’s dominance of the 2009 Rally Championship, winning the next four rounds in a dominant fashion. This included the International Rally of Whanagrei, while sweeping the road as the first car amongst the Asia Pacific field, and their surprising victory over fellow championship contender Richard Mason on his home ground, Wairarapa. Back to back titles was the perfect way to repay the amount of work the whole team had poured in over the whole season, which included running two cars in two different championships – all from a small backyard team on a shoestring budget.
“After our first three rally’s this season [New Caledonia, Queensland and Hawkes Bay] we would have never thought the year would turn out like this. It has been a dream year which is a huge credit to the whole team and is really the turning point in my career” said Hayden.
Their victory at the 2009 Rally Whangarei also opened up another door for Hayden and the team, gaining them qualification for the Pirelli Star Driver final at WRC Rally of Australia. Six young drivers from over the Asia Pacific were competing for the scholarship, which provides the recipient with a fully funded drive in the six rounds of the 2010 World Rally Championship driving a Mitsubishi Evo 10. Drivers were also judged and analysed during the pre-event shakedown, media interviews and interviews by the panel of judges. Judges included some of Australia’s greats of motorsport and M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson. These scores were combined with the results from the first competition day which determined the winner. Hayden and John were the fastest of all the crews over the nine stages, this combined with the pre-event scores they were judged the winners of the Pirelli Star Driver Scholarship.
“This is a massive dream come true for me. Now the hard work is to make the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity to use it as a springboard to consolidate a position at the elite level of the sport. I cannot thank Pirelli and FIA enough for this opportunity” said Hayden following the event.
It got better for the team when continuing over the final two days of the event to win Group N ahead of all the professional PWRC teams and 9th overall behind the factory World Rally Teams. This is a feat that has never been achieved by a New Zealander on foreign territory before.
To cap the year off Hayden was announced the winner of the $50,000 International Rising Stars Scholarship run by Rally of New Zealand. The financial and professional assistance will helped Hayden to compete in a full 2010 PWRC calendar and strive for a podium championship position (as the Pirelli Star Driver Scholarship included just 4 PWRC scoring rounds).
The 2010 season was the start of Hayden’s international career as he and co-driver John Kennard embarked on the PWRC with the Pirelli Star Driver Scholarship. The experience gained was hugely beneficial to both Hayden’s driving and off track performance as he learnt all new events from each corner of the globe.
In ‘cup’ style Mitsubishi Evo 10’s which could not be individually tuned for each driver (due to the regulations of the scholarship) Hayden adapted quickly, but two retirements in the first two rounds in Turkey and Portugal did put them on the back foot. However, these two rounds did not count towards the PWRC and there PWRC campaign could not have started better by scoring his maiden victory at home in NZ with his own Team Green Evo 9. They then followed this up with 3rd in the spiritual home of rallying in Finland with the Pirelli car. Then came a very strong and unexpected 2nd in Germany on his debut on tarmac and after another 2nd in Japan, they went into the final two rounds with a chance of winning the championship.
To do this they had to win in France, another tarmac event. All was looking good, leading on day 1 ahead of their much more experienced competition before alternator failure put a stop to their championship aspirations. Another podium on the final round in GB secured 3rd in the championship after a highly successful year.
The experience and exposure from 2010 gave the team a good platform to work from for 2011, but without the aid of a scholarship or large sponsorship support, the team struck a major brick wall consisting of budget restraints.
With the passion and enthusiasm of many of Hayden’s supporters brought about the creation of Hayden Paddon Rallysport Global Ltd. The purpose of the company along with the directors was to give Hayden’s career direction and help in securing funding and future deals.
The option of entering the PWRC was taken but was a big risk as at the time, as the bank balance was zero. A massive effort by the team and company along with shareholders and partners allowed them to do something that many thought was impossible, fund a PWRC campaign 100% from New Zealand. So was born a new World Champion!
Another big decision made for 2011 was the change from Mitsubishi to Subaru. While a decision that Hayden lost a lot of sleep over, their new partnership with Subaru and Belgium team Symtech Racing was a hugely successful one. Their first event in Portugal they were able to set a scorcher first stage time, beating everyone else by 13 seconds. This set the tone for the rest of the season as everyone else played catch up and convincing victories in Portugal and Argentina got their championship off to the best possible start.
Then a hard fought victory in Finland while competing against the fast locals was a highlight but also put them in a position heading to Rally Australia where they could win the championship. Winning the championship they did, convincingly winning a 4th round in a row (first time in a support championship since Sebastian Loeb in 2001) and being cheered on by a large group of New Zealand supporters.
Hayden and John became the first ever Australasian world rally title winners in what was a real Kiwi effort.
The final two rounds in Spain and GB gave them a chance to push without the worries of a championship on their shoulders. Their speed on tarmac was again impressive although a pre event electrical fault put paid to any result. While in GB, the team experimented with a new R4 Subaru for the first time. Second behind the factory VW Skoda S2000 was a good result for the new car and was valuable development and testing for the car.
The season was capped off by a trip to India for the end of year FIA Prizegiving Gala where Hayden and John were presented their 2011 awards along with fellow Rally, Formula 1 and Touring Car champions. Hayden also won the prestigious New Zealand Rally Founders award for a 5th year in a row and both Hayden and John were inducted into the New Zealand Motorsport Wall of Fame.
2011 did have a sting in the tail however. During the end of year corporate rally car rides in South Canterbury Forest, the teams Mitsubishi Evo9 endured a mechanical failure to a right front suspension component. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time couldn’t have been more true at the moment of the part failure. Flat in 5th gear along a ridge top, the failure caused the car to veer off the road and down a cliff. After being airborne for some time the car then began rolling down the 200m drop to finish at the creek at the bottom. The car was significantly damaged but luckily the passenger was unharmed and Hayden got away with just a broken collarbone.
After several hours at A&E, the next morning Hayden then boarded a 36 hour flight to the UK to attend a Mini WRC test as part of a new Redbull young driver program. Not being able to drive, he took part in most other activities including having the fastest wheel changing time – one handed. The young driver program never went ahead.
Both 2012 and 2013 brought the next step up in both car and competition, stepping into a Skoda S2000 car in the SWRC/WRC 2 Championship. The 2 litre normally aspirated cars were based on the same rules as a WRC car, just with less engine power, so a perfect stepping stone. The financial struggles from previous years continued, particularly in 2012 where the team completed in a full 7 round SWRC championship. The constant struggle to make it to the start line of each event took its toll but due to the dedicated hard work and never give up attitude from the whole team, got them through. Run by the professional Austrian BRR team, Hayden built a good relationship with the team and knew he had a good car for each and every rally.
2012 was close to being a dream year. Their debut on the snow in Sweden netted them 4th place, followed by their debut SWRC victory in Portugal one month later. Next was their home rally, Rally New Zealand, and in a high spec car. Hayden was excited to be competing in front of his home crowd. The support that the team received was huge, with thousands of fans cheering Hayden onto a second consecutive victory and a handsome championship lead. However, that was as good as the 2012 season got.
While leading Rally Finland and matching the times of non-SWRC registered VW Skoda driver Sebastian Ogier, Hayden retired on stage 6 with engine failure. However, they still went to the next round in Great Britain leading the championship. A freak electrical fault stopped the car on the opening day again. Rejoining for the remaining of the rally, they did at least claim some points to keep their championship alive.
Then the penultimate round in France was looking very good. Leading at the end of day 2 by more that two minutes, they only had to complete the final 5 stages to take the win and the championship lead back. But two stages from the end, the smallest of driving errors cost the team dearly. Sliding slightly off line on a slow hairpin right corner, the car got stuck in a ditch with 2 wheels of the car still on the road. The retirement not only cost them the rally, but they now also had no chance to win the title. Hayden was devastated – especially after the financial battles throughout the year to even make it all possible. The final round in Spain, the team proved what could have been, winning all the tarmac stages even beating the official VW Skoda team. It was bitter sweet however, but a lot of lessons learnt.
With a change of regulation in 2013 meant that the team no longer had to commit to a full championship at the beginning of the year. Instead they could nominate rounds for the renamed WRC2 class as the season progressed. So for the first 6 months of 2013 while trying to secure funding, Hayden and his NZ team went about starting the NZ championship to stay ‘match fit’.
After a massive 5 month rebuild process of the Mitsubishi Evo 9 (yes was rebuilt, not replaced) the team then went on to win the opening two rounds of the NZ Championship in Otago and Whangarei. They then missed the next two due to WRC commitments, but returned to the final two rounds, winning the championship ending Rally Wairarapa and with it the teams 3rd New Zealand Rally title. Hayden described this one as the most special due to missing rounds but also the huge team effort that went into rebuilding the car.
With the announcement of both VINZ and Pak’NSave joining long term partner PlaceMakers, a limited WRC program was able to be put together, including Rally Finland, Germany and Australia in the same Skoda S2000 from the previous year. The introduction of R5 and RRC turbo cars into the WRC2 in 2013 meant the S2000 cars became more obsolete, but podium finishes in Finland and Germany did not go unnoticed. This coupled with a clean sweep of stage victories in Australia got the attention that the team needed to make the next step.
The penultimate round of the 2013 WRC gave Hayden and John the chance they and the whole team had worked so hard towards – their debut in a WRC car. Driving a Ford Fiesta WRC car for the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team was a massive opportunity and one that Hayden fully intended to make the most of.
Not only was there the added challenge of a faster car and faster competition, but a mixed surface event also meant having to adjust to two surfaces in a brand new car. Also no gravel pre event testing, meant that for the final days 6 gravel stages Hayden would be really in the deep end.
The first two tarmac days of the event went well, mixing it with the WRC regulars and some of the factory drivers. Times within the top 8 and within 0.5 seconds per km on his less favoured surface was certainly a successful debut. The final day gravel stages presented more of a challenge however, and struggling to get to grips with the car meant that they struggled to set as competitive times. They did however bring the car home without a scratch in 8th overall and gained a lot of valuable experience for the future. Hayden was pleased with his debut and is now more confident than ever in competing at the very highest level in the future.
The bits and pieces year of 2013 presented new challenges that Hayden faced head on. The ultimate prize was the opportunity that lay around the corner for them in 2014. A driver for the Hyundai Motorsport Team driving the i20 WRC car.
After a dry 2013, where not only funds had dried up but also competition time. Focus turned to off track communication and dialouge to seek future opportunities. Through the combination of many things, including first sending their CV to Hyundai Korea in 2013, to the people Hayden had build relationships from in their 2011 winning year, to meeting the right people at events in 2013, lead to a meeting with Hyundai Motorsport – a team just re-entering the WRC as a full scale manufacturer.
The team were looking for a young driver to develop in their 3rd car for the future and Hayden was one of five candidates under consideration. After several discussions it was a life changing moment to be given a contract for 2014 to work with the team, including 6 events in a factory Hyundai i20 WRC car.
After the most difficult 2 years you could think of, things were taking a turn. This is what all their hard work was towards and it was a huge relief more than anything to have such an opportunity. Without all the support they have had over the years, particularly from HPRG directors and shareholders, this would have never had been possible. However it was one thing getting the opportunitity, it was another to make the most of it.
2014 was Hyundai Motorsport’s debut year back in the WRC, with a new team, new team base and a new vision. This was a full factory effort with long term objectives to win the WRC in mind.
Starting out with a new team was the perfect postion for Hayden & John, building new relationships and growing with the team. While 2014 only involved 6 events, it was more important the time spent behind the scenes at development tests, rollouts, working with the engineers at base.
Going from a family team of 6-8 people to a team of 150+ people was certainly a different environment and something Hayden had to adjust too. But also the level of resources available was a huge benefit to help them develop as a faster driver.
It was also new for Hayden to work with team mates in such a way where they were all driving to try and beat each other, but at the same time working together to help the team. This took some adjusting to and 2014 was a learning year both on and off the rally’s.
The first event for the year was Rally Sardegna in June and there was a lot of hopes and expectations on how Hayden would fare. Even he was secretly was hoping for something special, but amongst the excitement of his debut, he totally under-estimated the level of competition at this level and it magnified just how much work had to be done. This was the light bulb moment where Hayden realised to win at this level doesn’t just require hard work, but perfection.
The progress was also clear on the stages, starting Sardegna 1.5 sec per km behind the leaders to by the time they got to their 5th rally in Spain, achieving their first stage win in the WRC. Their year included a personal best result of 6th at Rally Australia in front of hundreds of Kiwis that made the journey, along with a highlight of holding 6th at the famous Rally Finland until technical issues.
Progress was the number one priority of the season and this was enough to secure a 12 rally campaign in 2015. At this stage they were running with 1 year contracts, which put a lot of pressure on each rally to not only perform but not crash. This was also the first time that they were approached by another team, giving them two offers to consider. While the heart and loyalty was always with Hyundai, it did complicate things a little, but a good taste of the industry and an humbling experience.
With an expanded program in 2015, the learning was to continue from 2014, with the first part of the season being events that Hayden had no or little experience of. 2015 was also their first year where they were nominated to score manfacturer points for the team (top 2 drivers) in three events, Rally Sweden, Australia and GB.
At this level, the manufacturers championship is more important to the team than the drivers championship. To back up the teams faith, Hayden & John delivered three 5th place finishes on all nominated rally’s, which was good strong points.
However, after a solid 5th in Sweden, the year took a big dip with disappointing results and accidents in Mexico and Argentina. While Portugal they were back on the result board, 8th place was far from the target.
Rally Sardegna was Hayden one year anniversary and first time returning to an event in a WRC car. The hopes were low for the rally after a lackluster performance the year before. With a good road position for Day 1 they expected to be more competitive than normal. After 3 stage wins in a row and building over a 20 second lead, this was more than they could have hoped for. But with two VW’s hunting them down, the pressure was on and it was a matter of time until they overhauled Hayden & John – well, that is at least that what they thought.
Hayden & John continue going about their business in their own way, not worrying about the others. It was a huge surprise to then think they held onto their slim 10 second lead over World Champion Sebastian Ogier until the afternoon of Day 2 – where first a spin then a broken gearbox dropped them back to 2nd. While they were unlucky to break the gearbox, they were even more lucky to get back to service that day and stay in the rally.
The final day was just about bringing the car home and securing their madien podium – 2nd. A day Hayden will never forgot, made even better that family and friends were present to mark the occasion. Being accidentally gifted the 1st place trophies on the podium then clearly painted where the target was – which now felt more realistic than ever. The remaining of the year was much more positive, with regular top 5 results (Poland, Australia, Corsica, GB) and more stage wins.
The Sardenga result certainly released the pressure and the shackles to more freedom and confidence in Hayden’s driving, often on gravel the fastest of our team. However, there was still a lot of work to be done to continue progressing and try and get on the top step of the podium.
While 2014 was the breakthrough year to secure an opportuntity with a manfacturer team. 2015 was the break through year for speed and results.
There was pressure to show this as it was the only way to help make the next step of Hayden’s goal a reaility – a multi year contract.
While there was a lot of excitement around their podium in Sardegna, talks with the team about their future did not start until after the 4th place finish following Rally Poland. This showed that Sardegna was no one off and gave the team more confidence in Hayden. The lunch discussion with Team Mangers Michel and Alain in a small restaurant in Alzenau on a sunny/warm German day is one Hayden will not forget. The first thing Hayden said is that the most improtant thing for us was a long term deal and the response was ‘Hayden, we were thinking 3 years!’. After some months of final discussions the contract was signed after Rally Australia and their next 3 years confirmed.
The pressure was released to perform for a job, but instead the pressure was now added as a full time professional manufacturer driver to perform, and perform well. This was the tools and next step in their goal to become World Champion, coupled with the launch of the much improved New Generation i20 WRC meant hopes were high for 2016. Watch this space.
MEET THE REST OF
Coming from a long and lustrous career in rallying spanning back to the 1970’s, John has been involved both as a co-driver and team management roles with many different teams around the world – most notably the Subaru World Rally Team. Since joining with Hayden in 2006, they have achieved a huge amount both within New Zealand and globally as they continue to strive together as a team working towards the same ultimate goals. Johns role in the car is hugely important and highly underrated, as the co-driver delivers the all important ‘rally winning’ pace notes at milli second accuracy.
The personnel involved within HPRG are all Kiwi’s, working hard and helping Hayden to achieve his goal. Long term partner Katie Lane has been a pivotal part of the marketing and PR side, helping Hayden to keep in touch with fans and the media around the world, as well as working with our partners.
Hayden’s father Chris has played a massive role since he started some 19-20 years ago and now plays a big part as a director of HPRG in helping to guide his career. Chris is also joined by two local South Canterbury business owners, Peter Swaney and Peter Anderson who are also directors within the company that has helped Hayden go from NZ Champion to World Champion. HPRG was set up in 2011 to help aid the teams battles to firstly find the seven figure budgets to compete in the WRC, and then to stay there over the following years. Within HPRG there are many dedicated, loyal and supportive shareholders who have helped, and continue to help make the dream a reality.
Based in Alzenau Germany, Hyundai Motorsport was launched in 2013 for their return to the WRC. With over 150 employees everyone in the team is as dedicated and motivated as each other to succeed. Every role in the team is as vital as each other, from designers, engineers, technicians, admin, logistics and marketing. The best team in the WRC.
Hayden and Rui first worked together in 2011 on their way to winning the Production World Rally Championship. Re united in 2015, Rui plays a key role to help Hayden extract the most from himself and the car. Analyzing data, tactical planning and car set-up engineering are just some of his key roles.