|STAND by for a Kiwi invasion when New Zealand ace Hayden Paddon lines up with the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team at Coates Hire Rally Australia on 11-14 September.In what will be a huge boost for the 2011 Production World Rally Champion – and the local economy – 95 supporters are flying across the Tasman to cheer him on.The party, mostly shareholder-fans and sponsors of Hayden Paddon Rallysport, will provide a healthy injection of cash for the Coffs Coast economy, given the number of buses, motels, restaurants and catering companies that will be looking after them.
Paddon and co-driver John Kennard have had this type of support at two previous WRC events in Australia but this year the numbers have doubled.
The Kiwis arrive on Wednesday 10 September and are hoping countrymen living in Australia will join them on the spectator Special Stages to drown out the supporters cheering for Paddon’s Aussie teammate and rival Chris Atkinson.
“It’s great that Hyundai has got two people from this part of the world – Hayden and me – in this WRC event,” Atkinson said when he and Paddon met recently.
“We’ll have a great battle and there will be plenty of rivalry out there between the Aussie and Kiwi spectators too.”
While Paddon’s team is bringing over the rally equivalent of cricket’s Barmy Army, the 27-year-old says more New Zealanders are coming to Australia with other groups.
If his wish comes true and rally-mad, Aussie-based Kiwis join the visitors on the Coffs Coast, he and Atkinson will have even more fun with the friendly trans-Tasman rivalry they enjoy.
The Paddon support group will travel in four buses with tour guides escorting them to the competition Special Stages. They will also have some quieter encounters, including the chance to socialise with driver and co-driver at several dinners and personal de-brief sessions at the end of each day’s action.
Aussie fans will not be able to miss the group, Paddon says.
“All our guest will be kitted out in our NZ merchandise range and will be waving plenty of Kiwi flags, so I’m sure they will create a bit of attention.”
Paddon is doing a seven-round WRC programme with Hyundai this year. Atkinson, from the Gold Coast, is Australia’s most successful international rally driver, having contested the WRC with several teams since 2004.
Coates Hire Rally Australia Event Manager David Catchpole said: “Putting trans-Tasman rivalry aside, we’ll welcome the New Zealand brigade warmly to the Coffs Coast and hope they have a fantastic visit.
“Chris is rally’s equivalent of Dan Ricciardo in Formula 1, an Aussie hero fighting in an FIA World Championship.
“We couldn’t be happier to see Chris and Hayden out there demonstrating that Down Under drivers are among the world’s best in the sport.”