COFFS COAST (NSW) – New Zealand driver Hayden Paddon will return to the wheel of a top-flight World Rally Car for the first time in a year when he contests Kennards Hire Rally Australia for M-Sport Ford in November.
The British team announced today that Paddon and long-time co-driver John Kennard will drive the latest Ford Fiesta WRC at the final round of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship on the Coffs Coast on 14-17 November.
Tickets for Kennards Hire Rally Australia, priced from $29 to $119, are available now from Ticketek.com. Event highlights will include two nights of the harbourside Destination New South Wales Super Special Stage and a free concert by legendary rock band Dragon exclusively for 4-day ticket-holders.
It will be the 32-year-old’s first drive at elite WRC level since he steered a factory Hyundai i20 at Rally Australia last year. Despite finishing second on the event, Paddon lost his place on the team and has been striving since then to rejoin the WRC.
A planned return with M-Sport at Rally Finland last month was cancelled after a major testing crash.
“We are really excited to get back behind the wheel. After the disappointment of Finland there was no way we could let that be the end of it and, together with M-Sport, we have worked hard to find some solutions,” said Paddon, who also will drive an M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 MkII in the WRC 2 Pro category at Wales Rally GB next month.
“I’m really looking forward to driving M-Sport’s new R5 MkII on an event we are familiar with and will aim to showcase its capabilities. It’s also good to get more seat time which, combined with testing both the R5 and the WRC, is something we have been lacking this year.
“But getting back in the World Rally Car at Rally Australia will be the real highlight and I can’t wait.”
The rallying community was devastated when a stray rock put paid to the popular Kiwi’s Rally Finland comeback, but he has worked hard since then to raise the backing to continue.
Paddon and Kennard have contested Rally Australia eight times, achieving four top-five finishes in the past four years, including two podiums.
Kennards Hire Rally Australia Clerk of the Course Wayne Kenny said confirmation of Paddon’s M-Sport entry was a big boost for the driver’s many supporters on both sides of the Tasman Sea.
“Hayden Paddon is enormously popular with Rally Australia crowds and we’ll all welcome him and John back to the Coffs Coast stages. He’s a talented driver in all conditions. He won Rally Argentina in 2016 and came second here last year,” Kenny said.
“Everyone will be barracking for him to be the first driver from Australia or New Zealand to win a ‘home’ WRC round at Rally Australia in November. There’s no doubt he’ll have the car and driving skill to do it.”
Kennards Hire Rally Australia is supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW.