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PHOTO: John Kennard (left) and Hayden Paddon celebrate their win in Argentina last year (Hyundai pic)

ONE of the longest current partnerships in the FIA World Rally Championship will end when Hayden Paddon’s co-driver John Kennard retires after July’s Rally Finland in July.

In 12 years together, the Kiwi pair has progressed from domestic rally competition to the heights of world rallying, along the way scoring the Production WRC in 2011, a third New Zealand title in 2013 and their maiden WRC round win, at Rally Argentina last year.

Kennard, 58, and Paddon announced the retirement on their social media pages today. Paddon said he would name a new co-driver in the next few days.

“To answer the question that seems to be asked more and more often lately: the decision has now been made and after 12 great years I will step down as WRC co-driver to @HaydenPaddon after Rally Finland, scene of my first-ever rally as a co-driver,” Kennard wrote.

“A sad day, but one that had to come some day. But I’ll still be around, to help achieve the goal we’ve all worked toward for so long – bring the WRC title to NZ!”

Kennard began his co-driving career in 1985 but switched to management roles with the Mitsubishi and Prodrive Subaru rally teams until he linked with rising star Paddon at the end of 2005.

The pair won New Zealand Rally Championships in 2008 and 2009.

The year 2010 saw the pair part of the Pirelli Star Driver Programme, securing third in the Production World Rally Championship. Four straight PWRC wins the following year secured the championship for the Kiwis – an historic achievement as the first Asia-Pacific crew to win a world rally title.

In 2013, the pair secured their third NZRC, then in April last year Paddon and Kennard again made history with their victory at Rally Argentina.

“After 12 years as Hayden’s co-driver, it will be hard to lever myself out of that Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC seat for the last time,” Kennard said today.

“But our deal has always been that I help Hayden in the most effective way possible and to have been his co-driver for so long, has been incredibly fulfilling and rewarding. When we first got in a car together, in 2006, the dream of winning the WRC seemed so far away, but now, as we push to achieve that ultimate goal, it’s timely that we re-arrange roles for maximum effect and to help complete the quest we’re all on – to bring the WRC Championship trophy home to New Zealand.”

Paddon said Kennard played a huge role in the team.

“Obviously, John has played a huge part in my career since we started working together at the end of 2005. We have achieved so much together and it has been quite a journey of highs and lows,: he said.

“It’s certainly sad to end the partnership, but we have been discussing over the last couple of years when was the best for both of us to make the transition with an eye towards the future.

“I can’t thank John enough for everything he’s contributed in these 12 years, but this is not the end. He will stay involved, helping me behind the scenes and, as he has played an important part in the journey so far, it’s only natural that he remains a part of it.”

Paddon’s website said an announcement about his new co-driver from Finland onwards would be made in a few days.

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.

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