Wed, 5 Feb 2020 - Hayden Paddon confirms 2020 Asia Pacific Rally Championship campaign

Motivated to be the first Kiwi since Possum Bourne to win the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), Cromwell's Hayden Paddon has confirmed his chase for the 2020 international title.

A sub-series to the global travelling World Rally Championship (WRC) it has long been used as a preening ground for up-coming talent. Many former champions are iconic names including Carlos Sainz, Kenneth Eriksson and two Kiwi’s; Rod Millen and Possum Bourne.

In 2019 three Kiwi’s started the final round with a chance of taking the title: Andrew Hawkeswood, Michael Young and Jack Hawkeswood. This year Paddon weighs in with the intention to add his name.

“No Kiwi has won it since Possum – 20 years ago,” commented Paddon, who will use both Samantha Gray and John Kennard for co-driving duty during the season.

“To be honest that is a stat that motivates me to do it. Possum was obviously an idol and that it hasn't been done since is a huge factor.”

Familiar with rounds of the APRC during his progression to contesting the WRC, Paddon scored enough points from events in 2009 to win the category Pacific Cup. Having won the cup again in 2019 for Hyundai, the 2020 plan is mapped out.

For Paddon that involves entering two qualifying rounds to be eligible to contest the winner-takes-all final, this year being held at Coffs Harbour in Australia.

The New Zealand qualifying rounds are Rally Otago – 3-5 April and Rally of Whangarei – 8-10 May.

The international Rally of Whangarei event is also a chance for Kiwi teams to sharpen their skills ahead of Rally New Zealand, this year being run as a round of the WRC 4-6 September.

Competition for the eight-round six country APRC starts in India 21 March. That is followed by the two New Zealand rounds, ahead of Australia, then Indonesia, Japan, China with the final back in Australia – 27-29 November. Registered drivers who entered at least two rounds of one of the APRC Cups (Pacific or Asia) will be eligible to contest the APRC final for the overall title.

Wed, 22 Jan 2020 - Mt Smart Stadium base to provide historic action for Rally New Zealand

Rally New Zealand will make history inside Mt Smart Stadium when it returns as part of the World Rally Championship in Auckland this September.

Today (21 January 2020) Rally New Zealand organisers confirmed that Mt Smart Stadium will act as a base for the event’s service park and rally village for the fans.

An historic Super Special Stage is also set to be created to run inside the stadium on both Friday and Saturday of the rally.

The four-day event will be based in Auckland from 3 to 6 September 2020, and has the backing of Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED).

The Mayor of Auckland, Phil Goff confirmed Mt Smart Stadium as the home base for Rally New Zealand today, driven into the stadium by kiwi rally star Hayden Paddon, who also confirmed his involvement as the official ambassador for the event.

Phil Goff says, “Auckland has a strong rally heritage going back more than half a century and it’s good to be able to once again host the WRC after an eight-year hiatus.

“Mt Smart has capacity for 30,000 fans and has good transport connectivity, including proximity to rail and bus services. It will be a great event for locals and for visitors to Auckland, who help boost our local economy."

While Paddon continues to work through his driving options for the event, he was on hand to confirm that his long-time backers, Hyundai New Zealand are the first elite sponsor to announce their sponsorship of the event.

Hyundai New Zealand General Manager Andy Sinclair says, “We are excited about the return of WRC to New Zealand shores, and are proud to announce our support of Rally New Zealand.

“Locally, we’ve been involved in rallying since 2014 when we established the Hyundai New Zealand rally team with Hayden. Not only will Hayden play an integral part in Rally New Zealand as the event ambassador, he will help bring our campaign to life in the lead up and during the event.

“We’re also excited to welcome back the Hyundai world rally team to our country to compete in their first Rally New Zealand since 2003, and will be working with them on their WRC campaign.”

Paddon says he was pleased to accept his role as event ambassador to help promote the return of the World Rally Championship to our shores.

“Rally New Zealand is a hugely exciting event for New Zealand – for the first time, kiwi fans will get to see modern-era WRC cars and drivers battle it out in our own backyard. I would love nothing more than to win this event in a WRC car.”

Oliver Ciesla, managing director of WRC Promoter says, “I had the opportunity to visit Mt Smart Stadium in November 2019 and was impressed by how close it is to the centre of Auckland. Of course, there are many benefits for fans and competitors to have the service park, rally headquarters and potentially even a super special stage in or around one central facility in Auckland.

Rally New Zealand 2020 chief executive Michael Goldstein says his organisation is thrilled with today’s announcements.

“We are excited that the World Rally Championship is returning to the iconic rally roads in and around Auckland, and now our team is determined to bring the rally to the people of Auckland,” says Goldstein.

“The service park at Mt Smart Stadium will be a real hub for the fans to be part of the event. We look forward to welcoming a huge array of kiwis to come and check out this incredible international event, get up close to the cars, meet the drivers and be part of the rally festivities.

“We’re going to supercharge the rally village spectacle by building a super special stage inside the stadium which will make for an incredible experience on the Friday and Saturday of the rally. We can’t wait to hear the roar of the WRC cars echoing through the stadium – it will be an awesome experience that will be very accessible for fans.

“It is so fitting for Hyundai New Zealand to be announced today as our first elite sponsor. They have been behind this event for years as we’ve lobbied to bring the WRC back and they are huge supporters of rallying in this country, from their association with Hayden Paddon to their support of various grass roots rallying events across the country.

“We are thrilled that Hayden has agreed to be our ambassador and of course that Hyundai New Zealand has backed Rally New Zealand.”

Mr Goldstein said that his organising team are hard at work and expect to announce the rally route, more sponsors and some other exciting innovations in the coming weeks.

Fans are encouraged to pre-register for tickets via

Fri, 10 Jan 2020 - NZ Rally competitors to get more international opportunities than ever in 2020

The opportunity to compete for both an FIA Regional and International championship and to compete as part of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) has never been more accessible for New Zealand rallying competitors.

The 2020 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) calendar sees three of the five rounds running as International events. The opening two rounds, Rally Otago and Rally Whangarei are both qualifying rounds for the FIA Pacific Cup, while the series will conclude with the FIA World Rally Championship round in Auckland.

Competitors who compete in two qualifying rounds of the FIA Pacific Cup will also be eligible to compete in the winner-take-all finale of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), which will be held on Australia’s Coffs Coast in November.

The FIA’s policy to allow the rules of the National Sporting Authority (ASN) means competitors with vehicles eligible for the NZRC, both two and four-wheel drive, that comply with FIA safety standards and an equivalence formula that is likely to be very similar to the NZRC regulations will be eligible to compete.

MotorSport New Zealand’s CEO, Simon Baker, says this announcement will be ‘fantastic for the sport’.

“The opportunities for rallying competitors to take part in international events and compete for an FIA regional championship is fantastic for the sport,” said Baker.

“Obviously the return of the WRC is massive, it allows New Zealanders to pit themselves against the best in the world.

“The new format of the APRC makes the opportunity to put their names alongside Kiwi legends Rod Millen and Possum Bourne a realistic possibility without a budget that runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“This season we saw Mike Young along with Jack and Andrew Hawkeswood travel to China which saw Andrew take a superb second place at the final in China, but the conditions in Coffs Harbour should be a lot more familiar to New Zealand competitors, as well as being logistically a lot more achievable.” /ENDS

Sat, 4 Jan 2020 - NZ Rally Champs next challenge for Targa winner Haydn MacKenzie

Fresh challenges are what motivates 2019 Targa New Zealand winner Haydn Mackenzie. So this year he is adding a NZ Rally Championship programme to his Targa tarmac event schedule.

“Yes,’ he said this week. “I’ve always wanted to have a go at rallying – on gravel - and I actually bought a car (a Mitsubishi Evo 6) and sort of tucked it away thinking I’d see how I went in it once I’d got the hang of 4WD on tarmac.”

Having won both Targa events (the three-day Targa Hawke’s Bay in May, then the five-day ‘main Targa event’ in late October and early November) last year, it was obvious the 35-year-old from Albany on Auckland’s North Shore had indeed ‘got the hang’ of driving the Mitsubishi Evo 10 he bought specifically for tarmac events.

So, rather than a low-key attempt in the Evo 6 this year he decided to buy a third - newer, more competitive – car, the ex Raana Horan Mitsubishi Evo 9, to give himself the best possible chance of success in this year’s Brian Green Property Group NZ Rally championship.

The five-round championship calendar dove-tails nicely with the 2020 Targa NZ one, with the first of three Targa tarmac events, the two-day Targa Bambina, kicking off the competition year over the March 07/08 weekend. The second, the two-day Targa Hawke’s Bay, is this year being being held over the May 16 & 17 weekend, while the annual ‘main event,’ the five-day Targa New Zealand, rounds out the local tarmac year between October 14 & 18.

The Brian Green NZ Rally championship starts a month later (April 03-05) with the Otago Rally based in Dunedin then heads to Northland for Rally Whangarei (May 08-10). It then heads back down to the South Island for Rally South Canterbury (June 20) before returning to the North Island for Rally Hawke’s Bay on July 25, then the return of the four-day Rally New Zealand as a full round of the 2020 World Rally Championship (WRC) between September 03-06.

Though Haydn Mackenzie is best known in motor racing circles here for his efforts on sealed surfaces – in a Walkinshaw replica VL Holden Commodore in the SuperGT category while still a teenager, then in the NZV8 Touring Car class before his recent Targa tarmac event success, he has raced dirt bikes extensively here and overseas (including at the Red Bull Romaniacs Extreme Enduro in Romania in 2017).

He has also raced UTVs (Side-by-Sides) at Off-Road and Stadium-type events.

Tue, 31 Dec 2019 - Sanctioning body switch for Targa events in 2020

Targa tarmac motor rally organiser, Ultimate Rally Group (URG), is in the process of completing a switch of event sanctioning, permitting and licensing authorities begun earlier this year.  

That switch will see all three 2020 Targa events running solely under permits issued by the Auckland-based Australasian AutoSport Alliance (AASA), rather than long-time incumbent, the Wellington-based MotorSport New Zealand organisation.

This year permitting and licensing functions were split at both the three-day Targa Hawke’s Bay in May 2019, and the five-day 25th anniversary Targa New Zealand in October; MotorSport New Zealand (MSNZ) sanctioned the competition (or sporting) parts of the events and the Australasian Auto-Sport Alliance (AASA) permitted the concurrently run but non-timed Targa Tour. 

For 2020, however, URG owner and Targa events director Peter Martin said that the time had come to choose one or the other.

“To that end,” he said this week, ‘I have decided to go with the AASA for both the competition and tour parts of our three Targa events in 2020.” 

A 100% New Zealand-owned-and-operated agency of the Australian Auto-Sport Alliance, the New Zealand AASA was set up by business entrepreneur Dr Jacob Simonsen two years ago to provide what he describes as; ‘a simpler, more cost-effective event sanctioning service with streamlined - largely on-line based – systems and processes, and friendly, common-sense practices.”

The Australian Auto-Sport Alliance was set up 12 years ago to ‘create, promote and maintain a professionally administered sport and industry environment ensuring the viability of the professional and recreational auto racing industry for the benefit and enjoyment of all the key stakeholders – the people who participate, the people who watch them participate and the people who provide the infrastructure to enable them to participate.’

In that time it has successfully sanctioned literally thousands of motorsport events on and off-road, covering every possible style of four-wheel competition; from club-to-national level circuit racing, truck racing, and both race and winch challenge-type events off the road.  It can also permit drive or ride days, burn-out comps and parade or show ‘n shine-type events. 

Here, the New Zealand-based Australasian Autosport Alliance can do exactly the same, permitting events, issuing competitors in them with competition licences and their cars with logbooks (which it calls car ‘passports’) etc.

“As an event organiser, and someone,” says Martin, “who is ultimately responsible for the safety of everyone who not only competes in but also is involved in some way in any of my events, I understand that safety is absolutely paramount. I found it refreshing this year to find that Jacob and his team at the AASA share the exact same laser-like focus on safety as I do yet – because most the processes are on-line - actually save everyone involved in the process of competing in one of my events, time as well as money

After years of there only being one event sanctioning option ‘in town’ Martin says that he – and everyone who enters one of his events in 2019 - owes the man behind the local AASA, Dr Jacob Simonsen, a vote of thanks. 

“Seriously, says Martin, “competition in any marketplace is good. It’s how – after-all – customers end up with better service at a better price.

Speaking of which, 2020 is set to be another big year for Martin and his team at the Ultimate Rally Group.

Demand from Targa regulars has seen him re-introduce a two-day ‘season opener’ Targa Bambina event in the upper North Island at the beginning of March. This will then be followed by the three-day Targa Hawke’s Bay event in May then the five-day Targa New Zealand (main event) -  this year being run a week earlier than usual (Oct 14-18) to allow for the biennial seven-day Silver Fern international marathon gravel rally URG also owns and runs to be held between November 21 & 28.



Sat, 14 Dec 2019 - Thomson announces new co-driver for 2020

Christchurch’s Dylan Thomson is pleased to announce he will work with co-driver Kieran Anstis for his 2020 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship.

Thomson has worked with partner Amy Hudson since making his rallying debut in 2016 but with Hudson purchasing a rally car of her own and looking to do some driving, Thomson didn’t have to look far for a replacement co-driver.

Anstis comes well credentialled as a graduate of both Motorsport New Zealand’s Elite Academy and Rally New Zealand’s co-drivers academy, while also sitting alongside some of New Zealand’s top rally drivers, including an NZRC podium at the final round of the 2019 season, Rally Waitomo.

“Amy started talking about taking a year off earlier this season when she bought herself a rally car and it’s nearly ready to run so we both figured it’s as good a time as any,” says Thomson.

“The opportunity to work with Kieran came up and I think we’ll make a good combination, we’ve both got similar ambitions and expectations for 2020 and moving further forward.”

“Dylan and I started talking after Waitomo about partnering up for the 2020 season, we are both chasing similar goals and targets so I’m really looking forward to working with him and the team next year,” adds Anstis.

After a season learning the four-wheel drive Specialised Auto Services Subaru netted third overall, Thomson and Anstis will be looking for consistent top five finishes and to repeat the top three championship standing come year end.

Dylan Thomson Rallysport’s campaign is supported by Total Lubricants, Riordan and West Transport Pukekohe, Drew + Accounting, Harrier Signs, Specialised Auto Services, Steelrite Framing, LJ Hooker, Fowler Homes South Auckland and New Zealand, AA Autocentre Hornby, Stadium Finance, Jivan Produce, Dunlop, Dixcel and Braketech.

Wed, 11 Dec 2019 - Paddon: ‘I’m not giving up’

New Zealand’s most successful rally driver Hayden Paddon has put a ‘rain-check’ on his WRC career, and is taking a fresh focus on building his own New Zealand-based team to take into international competition by 2025.

Keeping their minds open to various possibilities, Paddon and his New Zealand based team will now take a fresh approach to the future, knowing that the World Rally Championship will continue to evolve and change in coming years. Their other focus to try to secure the right deal for Paddon to compete in the 2020 running of WRC Rally New Zealand in a WRC car.

“This is not the end,” says Paddon. “It’s more of a rain check, but we have to be realistic. With only eight drivers’ seats in the WRC and having spent the year on the outside, there are limited opportunities at present. So it’s time to take a fresh approach to it all and focus on the building blocks of our own New Zealand team which I’m enjoying more than ever.

“Rally New Zealand is also a priority for 2020 and we will do everything we can to try and make it happen. Competing on roads I know well would give us a good leg-up compared to other competitors and I hope we have a chance to exploit that and fulfil a lifetime goal of trying to win Rally New Zealand.”

Paddon, age 32, is now based in Cromwell at his Paddon Rallysport Group (PRG) headquarters where his team is developing one of the first 100 per cent electric-powered Hyundai rally cars.

“We have already put the building blocks in place with our own New Zealand team and are working hard to develop relevant technology that will come into its own at the pinnacle of the sport in the coming years. The automotive industry and motorsports are changing quickly and we are presently trying to be proactive rather than reactive.

“Our goal is to take a 100 per cent Kiwi team to international competition within five years.”

Paddon’s passion for the sport of rallying is unabated and he’s excited about the potential and possibilities for PRG as a competitive global team.

“I’m still 100 per cent committed and passionate about rallying, and I still want to drive and win. To do that with our own Kiwi team would be incredibly satisfying. The steps to do that are massive but having a good team and supporters around us is key.”

Paddon’s biggest supporter is Hyundai New Zealand, a partnership forged in 2014 and now stronger than ever.

“The relationship we have built with the team at Hyundai New Zealand is truly humbling and one that I’m fully committed to. For them to allow me to compete in a different brand car in 2019 speaks volumes of the strength of their support and belief. Our projects for 2020 and the future remain committed to Hyundai New Zealand.”

Paddon’s successes in world rallying mark him as the Southern Hemisphere’s most successful rally driver and one of the most successful non-European WRC drivers. From his 80 WRC starts, he scored one WRC win, eight podium finishes, and 38 special stage wins with long-time co-driver John Kennard and, for the last 18 months, British co-driver Seb Marshall.

“It has been an amazing 20-year journey to the WRC and an incredible five years driving at the elite level for a manufacturer team. But the opportunities ahead are even greater and the next 20 years excite me even more with the sporting and commercial challenges we are going to tackle head on.”

Over the past year, Paddon’s focus has broadened from the intensity of being a world-class competitor to being a team manager and business owner. With their engineering and development facilities in the Highlands Technology Park beside the Highlands racetrack, Paddon Rallysport runs the Hyundai New Zealand rally programme with their AP4 car, as well as a Hyundai TCR race car. The team’s core project is the development of the EV rally with the first prototype due for public appearance in 2020. With 10 people already on the team, PRG is set to grow each year thanks to commercial investment in their innovative programme.

“Like any new business, the first years are the toughest,” Paddon says. “I see similarities with the financial challenges we face now in business compared to 10 years ago in my driving career. I love a challenge and we have a team of very passionate people involved, so I know we will make the venture and our vision a reality. We have some incredibly exciting times ahead as we forge a new path for motorsport around the world and for New Zealand.

“We also have a diverse motorsport programme ahead for 2020 which will be busier than ever. This will involve four high profile hillclimb events in New Zealand with our 700+bhp monster including a new event we are hosting, the Ben Nevis Station Golden 1200 Hillclimb taking place on 7/8 March We will also compete in several NZRC and APRC events with a focus of the APRC. All this combined with a TCR circuit programme, some sprintcar driving and racing the new Crosskarts that PRG is now importing will make a very full-on year.”

Paddon Rallysport is backed by some amazing New Zealand companies who share Paddon’s vision for the EV rally car programme, including Hyundai New Zealand, YES Power, Bailey Caravans, Ben Nevis Station, Wurth, Pirelli, Z Energy, Pak’nSave, Winmax Brake Pads, and GoPro.

Keep up with news from Hayden Paddon by joining Paddon’s Pack at or follow him on social media: Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Sat, 23 Nov 2019 - Tracey Stringer appointed as MotorSport New Zealand’s Chief CRO

Wairarapa Car Club’s Tracey Stringer has been appointed as MotorSport New Zealand’s Chief Competitor Relations Officer (CRO). Stringer fills the role as part of MotorSport New Zealand’s strategy to focus on improving the experiences for our customers including of course competitors.

The CRO role is part of any motorsport event officiating team, acting as the first point of contact for competitors who have questions about any aspect of the event or the rules. CRO’s also manage the communication between competitors and senior officials such as the Stewards or Clerk of the Course.

Stringer’s new Chief CRO role will see her lead the development of CRO’s in the sport and ensure they have robust leadership and training which enables them to best assist competitors. She will also become the first point of call for fellow CRO’s when they have questions or are after advice.

Having been involved in the sport since she was in her 20’s, Stringer said she was proud to be asked to fill the position.

“I’ve been involved in this sport for so long and when I got the call I was pretty proud that my commitment and dedication had been recognised.” said Stringer.

“I want to be able to share my experiences with everyone and help make the sport better for everyone involved, especially our competitors.”

Stringer said she got involved because of her passion for helping people.

“I got involved as a CRO because I love working with competitors and helping them find a solution. I knew other people who volunteered in that capacity and I thought I would give it a try.

“It’s been cool to watch race control and see how that operates and really understand the sport at a deeper level, which is something that not many people get to do.”

MotorSport New Zealand’s CEO Simon Baker said appointing Stringer was a no-brainer.

“When Elton (Goonan, MSNZ Competitions Manager) and I initially discussed the idea it was a no brainer for both of us to first ask Tracey if she was interested in the role.

“We really want to put our competitors at the heart over everything we do and I think this is a great start.”

Stringer will be in action this weekend for the NZ Hillclimb Championship event run by the Wairarapa Car Club.