A month ago, on a southern New Zealand island, a 4th rally championship event happened. Near 200 kilometers of dusty roads were ready to be tackled by crews mostly from New Zealand. Between a few R5’s and many various years Mitsubishi Lancer Evo’s and Subaru Impreza’s, there are AP4 class cars. They are like “Proto” in the Baltic region, N5 – in Spain or MRT in South America. The body varies from Škoda Fabia to Mazda 2 or Holden Barina, but the main parts are the same.
This year Ben Hunt is an uncatchable kiwi, who drives Subaru Impreza. He won all 4 rallies by at least a minute in the New Zealand championship. But sometimes there are other crews in events, that don’t compete in a championship. So two events had the honor to welcome the most famous kiwi from the rally world – Hayden Paddon. And if Ben Hunt is overtaking his rivals by a minute, then Hayden is overtaking Ben by an enormous 6-7 minutes and it’s pretty clear why Hayden was driving in WRC. The situation in this rally was the same – Paddon won all 12 stages with his Hyundai i20 AP4.
But last year was difficult for Hayden. After a weak performance in 2018 WRC, in December he got the news, that he doesn’t have a full seat for the 2019 season. Only some tests and one event. But the situation got worse when Hyundai announced, that the last seat for Rally Finland was given to Craig Breen. I Can’t say the Irish don’t deserve a place – this year he is very convincing and proves its worth, after a similar fate with Citroen. But now, as we know – Hayden got a seat in Ford Fiesta WRC for Finland. It’s sounds strange, but Hyundai made a strong contribution to this opportunity. But I’m talking about the manufacture itself, not about the WRC team.
Besides driving, Hayden took care of his racing team and sells Hyundai cars in New Zealand. As Hayden said, Hyundai is his life-time partner. Since 2014 kiwi drives only Hyundai cars like i20 WRC or i20 AP4 in Asia. After losing a place in WRC, Hayden was working hard for his team. Apart from few rallies in New Zealand events, the Paddon Rallysport team bought a Hyundai i20 TCR car for circuit racing and made a start in the Titans RX rallycross series with an i30 body kit on Pantera RX6 car. Hayden itself was behind the wheel in France earning fifth place in the event. So the constant work and dedication for the Hyundai concern make a situation where the regular partners not only allow but also helps the Kiwi to get back into the WRC despite driving a competitor’s production car.
Also, Hayden is a big patriot of his country. When he won Production WRC class (WRC2 nowadays), his Subaru was decorated with the main New Zealand symbol – silver fern in black background. This symbol is derived from local Maori legends. In 2016, when he won his only WRC rally in Argentina, Hayden raised a silver fern flag instead of the official New Zealand flag. This has led to a considerable wave of debate. Hayden motivated it by a referendum in New Zealand a year ago. The referendum was for changing New Zealand’s official flag. But there were not enough votes for a new flag, so the old flag is still being used. Also in the Hyundai dealership in New Zealand, the staff is made only from Kiwis.
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Photo – ASP