2019 heralded a new era for Paddon Rallysport with a renewed international focus from their new HQ at Highlands Motorsport Park in Central Otago, New Zealand. The team now enjoyed great testing facilities literally on their doorstep on the world-class racetrack.

Early in the year Hayden confirmed a new contract with Hyundai New Zealand, with the New Zealand-owned company increasing its support of both the Kiwi driver personally and Paddon Rallysport to undertake a swathe of new projects.

The plan was to use the Hyundai i20 AP4 car to contest Rally Otago in April and May’s International Rally of Whangarei which were part of the new Pacific Cup category of the FIA Asia Pacific Championship. Following that was Hayden’s ‘home’ event, the South Canterbury Rally in June before the team converted the Hyundai into its 800bhp hillclimb spec to tackle the Ashley Forest Rallysprint in September.

John co-drove for Hayden at Rally Otago in April, where they broke all but one stage record as he piloted the Hyundai i20 AP4+ to their fourth consecutive victory in Otago with a massive winning margin of 7min 16sec.

In May, up-and-coming co-driver Samantha Gray stepped into the co-driver’s seat for the International Rally of Whangarei. They survived a broken axle on the Saturday, denying them a clean sweep on all 18 special stages on Hayden’s fifth win in Whangarei. Hayden’s overall winning margin ahead of NZRC driver Ben Hunt was 4min 16.7secs, despite time loss caused by the (quickly-replaced) broken axle. The Otago and Whangarei victories gave Hayden maximum points for the FIA Pacific Cup.

Then Hayden confirmed he’d contest the Eureka Rush Rally in a Hyundai i20 R5 in August, which counted for the FIA Pacific Cup as the sixth round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship.

In June, the team released their four-part, behind-the-scenes documentary series, called ‘Driven’ created by young videographer Jack Smith.

Next up was the Rally of South Canterbury with Hayden and Samantha taking a comfortable victory in the one-day rally. In the three seasons to date, the Hyundai i20 AP4 had contested 12 rallies and 148 special stages to accumulate 10 rally wins and 141 stage wins.

Hayden headed to France in late June for a guest appearance in the 2019 Titans-RX Europe rallycross series, an experience he described as a lot of fun.

He and John returned to Europe in July with an exciting opportunity to drive for the M-Sport WRC team at Rally Finland. A high speed crash during testing meant they never even got to start the rally, a situation Hayden described as completely gutting. He told “When you come to a test, you have to drive the car, you have to push the car to make it work. You can’t just drive around. Having said that, after the accident I thought about things and asked myself ‘so, what would I have done differently?’ And the answer is actually nothing. That’s one of the things that’s actually so hard to accept.”

August was a busy month with Hayden and Samantha competing in the Hyundai R5 at the Eureka Rush Rally. They finished third overall and top of the FIA Pacific Cup points-table, adding another championship title to Hayden’s collection.

Then came the publication of ‘Driven’, Hayden’s autobiography published by Penguin Random House covering his commitment to rallying from a very young age, and his many highs and lows on the local and international rally scene.

Biggest of all was Paddon Rallysport’s unveiling of the prototype Hyundai Kona EV rally car to the world. National and international media were keen to find out more about one of the world’s first electric rally cars and Hayden was equally keen to demonstrate the fresh thinking behind the car and where he feels it fits in world motorsport in the future.

The team wrapped up the year’s domestic competition with an outstanding win at the iconic Ashley Forest Rallysprint in North Canterbury. With the Hyundai i20 AP4 in ++ mode, Hayden shattered the 1.7km hillclimb’s record with a blistering time of 52.77.

Hayden and John headed for Great Britain in October to contest Wales Rally GB with M-Sport in an R5 car. They delivered several stage wins in the WRC2 category, but a spin, two punctures and then a turbo issue saw them finish out of the top places.

More disappointment came in November with the cancellation of Rally Australia due to bushfires when Hayden and John had another opportunity to compete with M-Sport in a WRC car. This was countered by the announcement that the team would run the inaugural Ben Nevis Station Golden 1200 Hillclimb on New Zealand’s highest public road in the high country of Central Otago the following March.

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