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Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard return to national competition for Saturday’s Possum Bourne Memorial Rally determined to retake the lead in the Brian Green Properties Group New Zealand Rally Championship.
Paddon and Kennard, from Geraldine and Blenheim respectively, missed the last two New Zealand events – Daybreaker and Canterbury – yet are just one point adrift of new championship leader Ben Hunt.
With recent international success with two WRC2 podiums in Finland and Germany and being the fastest S2000 driver in these World Rally Championship events, Paddon expects to have a target painted on his back as he hunts for a third victory in his distinctive green Stadium Cars Evo9 in the local series this year.
Run by the Pukekohe Car Club in conjunction with Rally New Zealand, the Possum Bourne Memorial Rally is the fifth round of the national series which is heating up as it enters the closing stages for 2013.
The last three rounds of the championship have seen three different winners, with Paddon winning in Whangarei, a debut victory for Hunt in Daybreaker and most recently a win for Chris West at Rally Canterbury. Still in the fray also is defending champion Richard Mason, making it a four-way fight for the final two rounds.
At home in Geraldine briefly before heading north, Paddon says: “The competition this year has been very close and it has been interesting observing the results from the past couple of rounds from afar. We are expecting a tough battle up front, especially as we adapt back to the Evo9, which is quite different to the Skoda that John and I have been driving in the WRC2.
“There are a few unknowns this weekend. First is how the new developments we have made to the Evo9 will work. We have been unable to do any testing, so the first corner of stage 1 will give us a gauge of how the car is working. Throw into the mix that John and I have not rallied in Maramarua Forest for quite some time, and the final stages being on tarmac means there is plenty to keep us all honest.”
The Possum Bourne Memorial Rally will be a particularly poignant round of the 2013 New Zealand Rally Championship as Kiwi rally fans mark the 10th anniversary of Bourne’s passing.
“Possum was a massive icon for New Zealand rallying and someone that I looked up to. It is humbling to be able to compete in a memorial event of his that is based out of his home town in Pukekohe and on roads that he learnt to drive on in Maramarua Forest.”
Seeded number five for the event, Paddon and the team will get the fifth and final pick of road position within the top five, which the selection process will take place at 6.30pm on Friday at Pukekohe Raceway. Live results can be followed during Saturday at www.chrissport.co.nz and event information can be found at www.pbmrally.co.nz.
Paddon and his team would like to thank their partners that are helping to make their campaign possible: VINZ, Giltrap Group, PlaceMakers, Z Energy, Stadium Cars, Telecom New Zealand, CP-Carrillo, Saddle Hill Quarries, Heartland Potato Chips, New Balance, Scott Sports, Total Automotive Timaru, Coxy’s Panel Repairs, Resene, All About Signs, Reaction Racing, In-Tune Automotive, Racetech, Chicane, Endless Brakes, Nichibo, Choice at Team Ralliart, Andar The Front Store, MCA Suspension, Tyre General, Dunlop, Pope Print, Bluebridge Ferry, ION, and 1Group.