The year started with an announcement that Hayden and his co-driver John Kennard would contest the full 2010 FIA Production World Rally Championship (PWRC). The Pirelli Star Driver (PSD) programme was taking them to Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Turkey and Portugal. The first four of these were also PWRC rounds so they added Rally New Zealand and Japan, to meet the minimum of six PWRC events to be eligible for championship points. A full international schedule was underway!

In March Hayden and John participated in the official PSD training programme in Edinburgh, Scotland, before joining the PSD squad in April for the first event in Turkey – all driving identical Ralliart Italy-prepared Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X cars. Hayden’s first WRC event in the Northern Hemisphere started with disappointment, being knocked out of the opening day’s running by a dirt chicane just 8km into the first stage. However, he recovered well, to finish as the top-placed PSD competitor, and 26th overall.

Next up was their home event, Rally New Zealand for the now 23-year-old. Back on familiar roads, everything went brilliantly, and Hayden and John secured a convincing PWRC category win and the maximum 25 points. Using their Paddon Rallysport Mitsubishi Evo 9, they were also the first New Zealand crew home and a very respectable 14th overall.

In May, the abrasive Portuguese roads challenged the Kiwis, requiring them to restart under SuperRally regulations, but the pair persevered to again be the top PSD finishers, 20th overall and ninth in Group N (which included Super 2000).

In July, they contested a second New Zealand event in Whangarei with a simple goal – to demonstrate outright speed. And they did, dominating the International Rally of Whangarei with unassailable lead of three minutes and 55 seconds, winning 13 of 16 stages and setting four new stage records.

August saw them back in Europe for Hayden’s debut at the iconic Rally Finland and a strong third place in the PWRC category and among PSD competitors. Hayden admitted afterward that he’d underestimated how difficult the notoriously fast rally would be but was pleased to achieve his goal of a podium finish.

Later in August, rally commentators described Hayden’s self-assured performance on his first-ever all tarmac event in Germany as “exceptional” after Hayden and John finished second in the Production class and were comfortably the fastest and most consistent of the five Pirelli Star Drivers. The result kept Hayden firmly in third place for this year’s PWRC title.

September saw them take the Paddon Rallysport Mitsubishi to the Japanese island of Hokkaido to tackle its narrow, bumpy, tree-lined roads. Their Japanese debut was certainly testing, but they managed to finish second PWRC, score class wins in 7 of the 8 final day’s stages and 12th position overall. They were still third in the PWRC points battle.

The fast tarmac roads of the French region of Alsace were up next with Hayden and John starting the first day very strongly. But a puncture and an alternator failure ended that day; a spin and three punctures ended day two; and while they did finish the rally – seventh in the PWRC category – they lost the chance to fight for the championship at Rally GB. As Hayden said, you just have to put it down to experience.

November’s Rally GB bought more mechanical woes, but Hayden and John fought back to finish third in class and confirm third place overall in the 2010 FIA Production World Rally Championship – the best result a New Zealander has ever achieved in a world rally championship series!

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