Tue 26 Mar 2024

Paddon the hunted! Hyundai hero to defend ERC title with BRC

Hayden Paddon admits he and co-driver John Kennard “will have targets painted on our backs” when they try to defend their FIA European Rally Championship titles in 2024.

The New Zealanders, who are embarking on their 19th season competing together, will chase more ERC silverware with Italian squad BRC Racing Team aboard a Pirelli-equipped Hyundai i20 N Rally2.  

It follows their standout 2023 campaign when they brushed aside their lack of event experience to claim one win, four second-place finishes and a third-place spot, results that enabled them to clinch the ERC title with one event to spare.  

“We’ve been working to confirm our return to the European Rally Championship over the New Zealand summer and I’m very pleased, that with the support of BRC Racing Team, Hyundai Motorsport, Hyundai New Zealand and Pirelli, we are now heading back to Europe to try and defend our title,” said Paddon, who became the first driver not flying a European flag to be crowned ERC champion in 2023.

“Returning for this second ERC season, I expect that John and I will have targets painted on our backs with other competitors striving to beat us. We expect a tougher fight this year, but John and I will look to lift our performances this year on some of the events we will now have experience of – it will be an exciting year.  

“The European championship is pretty much what rallying is all about to me. The ERC is the best fit for us, where I am in my career. We contested half of the eight [2024] rallies last year so at least we have more experience than we had 12 months ago. That leaves half as new-to-us rallies with more Tarmac events than gravel. We’re up for that challenge because our performance on Tarmac has come a long way in the last few years. We back ourselves to be equally as competitive on Tarmac as we are on gravel.”  

Of his long-standing partnership with 65-year-old Kennard, Paddon said: “It’s awesome to have John back in the car again. Being our 19th year working together, it’s like a fine wine getting better with age. We’re both excited to get back over there and put last years’ experience to good use. We’ll hit the ground running this year, knowing more what to expect from some of the rallies, the competition, and the teams.”

Paddon has been quick to acknowledge the contribution made by BRC Racing Team, Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing and Pirelli in helping him become ERC champion last season.  

“Everyone at BRC was incredible to work with last year while John and I were competing in the various ERC events across Europe for the first time,” said Paddon, 36. “The combined efforts of BRC, Hyundai Motorsport and our own Paddon Racing Group team in New Zealand enabled us to progress development of the Hyundai i20 N Rally 2 car.   

“I’m proud that Pirelli have played a big part in my career since 2010. We saw last year that Pirelli was the best all round tyre for the whole championship and feel they will give us the best chance for success again this year.”

Gabriele Rizzo, Team Principal of BRC Racing Team, said: “It's never easy to put programme together at this level and it was quite a challenge indeed along the winter. We must thank the effort made by Hayden and all his partners and sponsors, in particular Hyundai New Zealand. We’ll work hard to achieve the ambitious target to win a second title in a row and this will be surely helped by having great technical partners like Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing and Pirelli. We expect a fierce and refreshed list of competitors, definitely it will not be easy. We’ll need to perform at our best with solid results with the same motivation with which we started last season.”  

V-Híd Rally Hungary, based in the city of Veszprém, opens the 2024 ERC season from 12 - 14 April.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM