In January the New Zealand management company which oversees Hayden and John’s world rallying exploits, Hayden Paddon RallySport Global (HPRG) Ltd, confirmed partnerships with Hyundai New Zealand and Pak’nSave, as well as increased support from Z Energy and the support of associate sponsors Scott Sports and All About Signs in Timaru.

The season didn’t start so positively with Hayden and John retiring on the Friday morning of their debut at the notoriously tricky Rallye Monte-Carlo in January. They re-joined to gain some experience on the icy roads.

They bounced back in February with their first event in the new generation Hyundai i20 WRC car – making history by finishing in second place in Rally Sweden. Hayden became the first non-European driver to finish on the podium on the snow rally which is traditionally dominated by Scandinavian drivers and is now one of only seven non-Scandinavian drivers to have secured second place finishes on this World Rally Championship event.

The Mexican rally in March delivered typical tough, hot conditions and the New Zealanders had several challenges to overcome including two broken suspension arms, mechanical issues created by the high temperatures and heavily gravelled stages. They secured a hard-fought fifth place in what was Hayden’s 50th WRC start.

Later that month Hayden announced he was joining up with Hyundai New Zealand to launch the first-ever New Zealand-developed Hyundai rally car and create a new partnership to benefit the New Zealand rally sport scene. He and John will contest two rounds of the New Zealand Rally Championship in a 1.8-litre, turbocharged Hyundai i20 AP4 rally car.

April 24, 2016 was Hayden’s WRC career highlight day, where he and John made history with their victory at Rally Argentina. They became the first New Zealanders to ever win a round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Hayden delivered the drive of his life on the very last challenge of the rally –the famed, mountainous, rock-strewn El Condor special stage –to wrench the rally victory from three-time WRC champion Sébastien Ogier on Sunday afternoon (Argentinean time). He started Sunday’s final three-stage leg of Rally Argentina in the lead with a margin of 29.8 seconds over Seb. The first fog-affected run through El Condor saw the Frenchman take 7.4 seconds out of Hayden’s lead as the Kiwi lost precious seconds with a gear-change issue. Special stage 17 saw Seb deliver a blistering run which cut Hayden’s lead to a mere 2.6 seconds with just the final power stage to go. But Hayden stood up to the Frenchman’s challenge, saying he drove the wheels off his new generation Hyundai 120 WRC car to secure not only his first power stage win, but also his debut WRC rally win.

“It’s an amazing feeling, to win like this, on the last stage where the odds were a little bit against us. We lost a lot of time in the previous stage and just over two seconds margin going into that last one –I didn’t have a lot of confidence, but we just pushed like hell.”

Perhaps he channelled some fighting spirit as his win came on Monday April 25 in New Zealand – ANZAC Day.

Always searching for improvements and gains, Hayden trialled some new glasses in the following two rallies in Portugal and Sardinia. They were meant to help him process information quicker, but they altered his ability to judge depth and unfortunately, he and John crashed out of both these events after misjudging small sections of the road surface.

Heading into July’s Rally Poland with the pressure on, they released it by finishing in third place. It was the first time the Kiwis have finished on this step of the podium. The result also moved Hayden into third place in the WRC drivers’ championship.

Another top-five result in Finland saw them claim fifth on the high-speed stages. Later in August they moved to tarmac for the ADAC Rallye Deutschland and finished in the same spot.

Their second outing at the twisty tarmac Tour de Corse they dropped one position overall to net sixth place. All that driving on the black top paid off with Hayden and John marking their 100th rally together with their best result to date on a tarmac rally, securing fourth place in Rally RACC Catalunya -Rally de España, in October.

The wet, muddy Welsh roads saw them achieve their second close fourth-place finish in two events. It was the best result the Kiwis have achieved at Wales Rally GB, this being their sixth run here.

They wrapped up the season in November by fighting back to secure fourth place in Rally Australia after a final-day puncture ruined their hopes of a podium finish at the final event Rally Australia.

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