Age: 25 (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: Bread
Favourite Film: Worlds Fastest India, Senna
Idols: Colin McRae, Possum Bourne
Holiday Destination: Coast of Spain
Sports: Squash, Golf, Go-karts
Other Interests: Cricket, Travelling
Favourite Band: Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Evermore
Favourite Rally Stage: Waipu Caves, Whangarei, NZ
Best Results: 6th overall 2011 WRC Rally Australia, 5 PWRC victories, 14 NZRC victories
Favourite Quote: To Finish First First you must Finish
Goodluck Charm: Hard work
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. This is just the beginning of a new chapter that Hayden feels will be very successful. Watch this space.
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.