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New Zealands smooth flowing gravel roads and stunning scenery provide a spectacular backdrop for competition in the World Rally Championship. Photo: Geoff Ridder

With New Zealand’s leading rally driver Hayden Paddon announcing confirmation yesterday of his return to the FIA World Rally Championship in 2015, the organisers of Rally New Zealand are excited at the prospect of having a Kiwi driver battling for outright honors on home soil when the World Rally Championship returns to New Zealand roads in 2016.

Paddon from Geraldine in the South Island will contest 9 rounds of the 2015 WRC for the Hyundai World Rally Team, after completing a 6 round program in 2014 in what was a stellar debut season for the 27 year old.

Rally New Zealand was last held as a round of the FIA World Rally Championship in 2012 when the event alternated on the calendar with Rally Australia. Under the agreement reached when Rally New Zealand withdrew from the impractical ‘year on year off’ structure that was in place from 2008 until 2012, Rally New Zealand organisers have been busy in planning for the events return to its annual calendar slot in 2016.

“It’s fantastic for the sport in New Zealand to see Hayden announce his 2015 program. We are all very proud of what he has been able to achieve through determination, hard work, and the outright speed he has in a World Rally Car,” stated Rally New Zealand Chairman Peter Johnston.

“On behalf of our team and motorsport fans, we would like to congratulate Hayden on what he has achieved in 2014 in his debut season at the top level, and look forward to supporting him throughout 2015 .”

Johnston says Paddons WRC progress has only heightened interest in the return of the annual World Championship event. “New Zealand is a passionate motorsport country, 2016 Rally New Zealand will be a major international event on New Zealand’s sporting calendar.”

Rally New Zealand organisers are currently reviewing options for the event base, headquarters and Service Park. “We have undertaken a full review of the event including its location to ensure we get the right mix. The Head Quarters and Main Service Park need to be placed closer to the competition stages. We have identified options and are now discussing with potential partners with the aim of being able to announce further details in the New Year.

We know how much the drivers enjoy the stages and the teams the public support so we are confident that everyone is looking forward to WRC Rally NZ 2016’” said Johnston. “We are very fortunate to have some fantastic options available in terms of iconic WRC stages from Whaanga Coast to Motu. All I can say is watch this space.”

New Zealand has a proud 35 year history at world rally level and in fact was the first event in the Southern Hemisphere to join the WRC back in 1977 when Finnish Rally star Ari Vatanen entered into rallying legend with his drive in a Ford Escort. Recent years have seen some of the closest competition in World Championship history, including the 2007 event where Finnish driver Marcus Gronholm defeated nine times world champion Sebastien Loeb of France by 0.3 seconds after three days and over 300 kilometers of competition.

 

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Nine times World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb of France claimed victory in the last running of Rally New Zealand during 2012 Photo: Geoff Ridder

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Nine times World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb of France in action on course to victory during the 2012 Rally New Zealand. Photo: Kate Ridder