PADDON ARMY OUT IN FORCE AT AUSSIE RACE, WRITES COLIN SMITH
When Hayden Paddon appeared at a pre-Rally Australia press conference, broadcaster Becs Williams asked the Kiwi rally star about the army of supporters she’d seen at the Shakedown stage and Coffs Harbour service park.
“I don’t think we’ve even seen half of them yet,” Paddon said. “This is the closest we get to home — they give even more motivation to push harder and put on a good show for them.”
The Paddon Army was a talking point of the event with black-and-white hats and shirts, silver ferns and New Zealand flags.
There were four busloads of Paddon fans on official supporters’ tours and hundreds of other Kiwis made their way to the FIA World Rally Championship event.
Rally Australia gave the Kiwi fans an opportunity to watch Paddon in action. For the rest of the WRC season it’s the voices of Williams and end-of-stage commentator Colin Clark via the live WRC Radio.
Williams says she is amazed at the support for Paddon.
“Thierry [Neuville] has a pretty big fan club but the scale of the people who were in the service park on Thursday for Hayden was pretty incredible.
“You couldn’t see anybody else other than Hayden Paddon fans, all in their black T-shirts with Hayden on the back. You knew who they were there to support and for one driver it’s an incredible sight.”
Williams is aware Paddon is fast becoming one of the WRC’s most popular drivers. She says there is a lot of social media interaction with the WRC Radio broadcasts, with Kiwis staying up till early morning to follow European events.
“There are people sending us messages on Twitter and posting on Facebook. They are there whether Hayden is doing well or not because they are not fair-weather fans,” she says. “But when he is doing well we notice a real spike in communication. People want to interact and keep themselves awake.
Williams has interviewed Paddon as he has come through the ranks of the Production Cup, WRC2 and now the top level of the sport. She has no doubt about his strongest attribute. “It’s his absolute determination and focus. He will not be swayed, he has a goal and he’s going to keep going.
“We see many drivers coming through the ranks and a lot don’t make it. You need to have something special within you.
“I think Hayden is a little more special than most because he hasn’t had the privileges that maybe some of the others have.
“I’m not saying a lot of them come from money but they come up through the ranks from programmes in their countries that put them on display in front of manufacturers which Hayden didn’t have.
“He’s come through on his own back with his own sponsorship and his own hard work.
She believes Paddon has a long-term future in the WRC. “People are knocking on his door rather than the other way around. “He’s shown he’s got speed. If you haven’t got speed that’s it. Consistency you can learn, sheer speed you can’t learn.”