Tue 28 Feb 2023

Paddon latest top line driver to confirm ERC campaign

FIA World Rally Championship event winner Hayden Paddon will go for ERC gold in 2023 after joining forces with BRC Racing Team to pilot a Hyundai i20 N Rally2 alongside long-term co-driver John Kennard.

The New Zealander, 35, follows several other drivers with significant WRC experience, such as Mads Østberg, Tom Kristensson and Pontus Tidemand, in committing to the FIA European Rally Championship.

Paddon’s maiden ERC campaign will be his first full season in the continent since 2017 and his 18th with Kennard co-driving. He explained why the championship, which celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2023, holds such a big appeal.

“We have made the decision to focus on ERC for a couple of key reasons,” Paddon said. “Firstly, the budget is more achievable while still competing in a top FIA championship. Secondly, from a personal perspective, fighting for rally wins rather than class wins is more appealing. I’m at a different point of my career now, and ERC looks like an enjoyable campaign to keep Hyundai NZ Rally and PRG [Paddon Racing Group] in Europe while competing with a serious chance of winning rallies.

“Also, when considering the logistics of competing on the other side of the world, we see the value of developing a close relationship with a highly-regarded European team like BRC Racing Team, while still using some of our own personnel too.”

In Italy-based BRC Racing Team, the racing department of BRC Gas Equipment, a brand property of Westport Fuel Systems Italia, Paddon can count on an organisation with considerable experience running Hyundai-powered cars in both circuit racing and rallying. 

Gabriele Rizzio, Team Principal of BRC Racing Team, said: “We are honoured to start this project with Hayden and all his partners and sponsors, including Hyundai New Zealand.  It’s a unique opportunity to expand our connections within the Hyundai world and return to the challenge of contesting the FIA ERC as part of our wider motorsport activities. Our team are looking forward to the first rally in Fafe. We will face the season with our usual professionalism and attention to detail, with the aim of showing solid results at each rally.”

As well as chasing success in the ERC, Paddon will contest several rounds of the New Zealand Rally Championship in his in his Hyundai i20 AP4+, plus an expanded schedule of events with the Hyundai Kona EV rally car.

Paddon: Why I am coming to the ERC

“We are proud to continue representing Hyundai New Zealand,” Paddon said. “Everyone at Hyundai NZ Rally gained a lot of knowledge last year, with both the Rally2 car and competing internationally. This year is about building on that knowledge while aiming for a European title, up against some very strong competition from the local European drivers and teams and manufacture supported teams.”

Hyundai New Zealand CEO Andy Sinclair added: “We're excited to support Hayden Paddon as he competes in the 2023 FIA European Rally Championship with the assistance of the BRC Racing Team. It's a fantastic opportunity for him and John to fight for rally wins on the world stage and build on last years success. We look forward to the year ahead with Hayden and his team as we work towards securing the ERC title on top of our domestic programme.”

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