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Hayden Paddon Heads This Weekend’s Southern Lights Rally

A full 20 years since the roads of Southland, New Zealand, hosted top-tier competition, this weekend’s 21-22 June Transport World Southern Lights Rally will be headed by defending European Rally Champion and seven-time New Zealand Rally Champion Hayden Paddon.


Leading the first of 65 cars in the world’s southernmost championship rally event, Paddon and junior co-driver Jared Hudson will start their Hyundai i20 AP4 from Invercargill’s Transport World at 5pm on Friday.


The event last ran as a round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) in 2004.


Paddon is fresh from contesting the latest round of the European Rally Championship, finishing third overall at last weekend’s Royal Rally of Scandinavia (Sweden).


Returning to Southland has special significance for Paddon, who, in 2003, started his first-ever New Zealand Rally Championship event at the age of 16. Since then, he has amassed a Production World Rally Championship title, the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, and the FIA European Rally Championship crowns, plus a total of seven New Zealand Rally Championship wins. The now 37-year-old is currently the only Kiwi to win a round of the World Rally Championship.


“You could say this is where it really began – 21 years ago when I first contested in the same rally as the then championship leaders,” explained Paddon.


“To be returning in 2024 is exciting, the R2G Group have planned a spectacular event including some night stuff which I’ve always enjoyed. The style of the road is notorious for the region and the challenge of new notes, new roads and debuting our Hyundai in the deep south will make for a very exciting event.


“Add in starting on the Friday evening, really makes it unique.”


Following Paddon into the dark is former NZRC Champion Ben Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstorn in the Skoda Fabia Rally2. Hunt’s pre-event nerves about pending fatherhood have been eased by the safe arrival of a second daughter to the family.


Starting as third car a further minute later, current NZRC points leader Robbie Stokes and Amy Stokes will take to the road in their Ford Fiesta AP4. Championship opening round winner Jack Hawkeswood and Jason Farmer Toyota Yaris AP4 will be fourth car.


Five different manufacturer brands are represented across the first five cars on the road. The front end of the field also includes many Subarus and Mitsubishis that previously dominated the region's roads. The top Subaru representative will be Southland local Mark McMillan and Tim Driscoll in a WRX STi, while Australian Stewart Reid and Canterbury co-driver Bella Haggarty front the Mitsubishi field in an AP4 car.


Extreme E and 2016 Australian Rally Champion Molly Taylor, along with co-driver Andy Sarandis, will make their first start at a New Zealand event in an H6 specification Subaru Impreza. Joining them in showcasing female driving talent is Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour, paired with co-driver Ben Searcy, in the Citroen C3 Rally2 car. Additionally, Bannockburn’s Terri Taylor, with Jimmy Martin as co-driver, will compete in a Subaru Impreza. The event also features other international participants, including Vanuatu’s Nelson Law and Antonio Korikalo, who will drive a Mazda 2 AP4.


At the tail end of the field is Manawatu’s Andrew Lowe and Thomas Good in a Toyota Corolla.


After the Friday evening Pebbly Hills Forest stage, the cars will park up in central Invercargill for the night before resuming the journey early Saturday morning. The route uses closed sections of road to the north and west of Invercargill, with service stops at Winton and Tuatapere. The final special stage is set at the Teretonga race circuit, using a mix of gravel and half of the track for a spectacular finish, followed by podium celebrations in-field at the venue from 5pm.


The event also marks the shortest day of the year, with daylight hours between 8:31am and 5:05pm.


Event Overview:


The Transport World Southern Lights Rally kicks off on Friday night, 21 June 2024, from Invercargill and covers 157km of special stages through Southland. Spectators can enjoy the action with a $10 donation to charity at the door for the ceremonial start, and $10 entry for both the Pebbly Hills night stage and the ceremonial finish. Tickets are available from Invercargill’s Transport World, E Hayes & Sons, Auto Centre, and Harrison Supplies in Gore, or at the gate.


Backing the organisers, Rally Race Group, are local car clubs, particularly the South Otago Car Club and the Southland Sports Car Club.



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