History-making Kiwi rally co-driver John Kennard will step down from his role as Hayden Paddon’s co-driver in the FIA World Rally Championship after July’s Rally Finland.
Kennard and Paddon have enjoyed a 12-year partnership which has taken the now famous Kiwi pair from domestic rally competition to the heights of world rallying.
Rally Finland is a very special event for Marlborough’s Kennard who first competed there alongside his now-business partner Brent Rawstron in the 1985 1000 Lakes Rally (now Rally Finland). Rawstron and Kennard came home as the top non-Scandinavian privateers in that rally, so it’s fitting for the oldest WRC co-driver to conclude his role as Paddon’s co-driver at his favourite rally.
During his time in world rally competition, Kennard made his own mark, particularly in the years alongside Paddon. He competed in New Zealand as a driver back in the late ‘70s, but moved to the co-driver’s seat in 1985, claiming his first WRC podium alongside Kiwi driver Malcolm Stewart at Rally New Zealand in 1988. Kennard has also worked for WRC teams, firstly as team co-ordinator for Mitsubishi Japan, a similar role with Prodrive’s Subaru World Rally Team and then a year managing Mitsubishi’s rally programme in USA. Having commenced his Marlborough vineyard business with Rawstron in 2003, the introduction to Paddon in 2005 bought Kennard back into the sport competitively. Together, Paddon and Kennard won the New Zealand Rally Championship in 2008 and 2009. The year 2010 saw the pair part of the Pirelli Star Driver Programme, securing third in the Production World Rally Championship. Four straight PWRC wins the following year secured the championship title for the Kiwis – a history-making achievement in New Zealand motorsport as the first Asia-Pacific driver/co-driver combination to ever win a world rally championship title. In 2013, the pair secured their third NZRC title, then in April last year Paddon and Kennard again made history with their victory at Rally Argentina as the first New Zealanders to ever win a round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Kennard says: “After 12 years as Hayden’s co-driver, it will be hard to lever myself out of that Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC seat for the last time. But our deal has always been that I help Hayden in the most effective way possible and to have been his co-driver for so long, has been incredibly fulfilling and rewarding. When we first got in a car together, in 2006, the dream of winning the WRC seemed so far away, but now, as we push to achieve that ultimate goal, it's timely that we re-arrange roles for maximum effect and to help complete the quest we’re all on – to bring the WRC Championship trophy home to New Zealand.”
Paddon pays tribute to Kennard who has played a huge role in the team.
Paddon says: “Obviously, John has played a huge part in my career since we started working together at the end of 2005. We have achieved so much together and it has been quite a journey of highs and lows. It’s certainly sad to end the partnership, but we have been discussing over the last couple of years when was the best for both of us to make the transition with an eye towards the future.
“I can’t thank John enough for everything he’s contributed in these 12 years, but this is not the end. He will stay involved, helping me behind the scenes and, as he has played an important part in the journey so far, it’s only natural that he remains a part of it.”
An announcement regarding Paddon’s new co-driver from Finland onwards will be made within a few days.
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Kate Gordon-Smith, media manager, HPRG Ltd
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