Me & My Car: Hayden Paddon gives insight to his Mini Cooper obsession
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DRIVEN catches up with Hayden Paddon; Motoka presenter, Hyundai rally driver, and Mini enthusiast
D: Where does the love for Minis begin?
HC: My first race car and car I owned was a Mini when I was 12 years old. I had $500 and my father suggested a front-wheel drive car. A good 1982 Mini came up in Christchrch in the Buy Sell Exchange that we bought sight unseen, and it became my pride and joy from that point on.
How did you come to owning your current Mini?
That first race car I then barrel rolled when I was 14. We always had a plan to rebuild it, but then the rest of my motorsport career took off and simply didn’t have time. A few years ago my little sister got her driver’s licence, and in typical family tradition her car was a Mini.
So when I was back in NZ from Europe for Christmas, I drove her car and I fell in love all over again. So my search for a good road-going Mini began, and six months later, bought one in Tauranga.
Have you modified it?
I actually have two Minis: the 1996 Cooper anniversary model as seen on Motoka. It’s standard with no mods. However the later model anniversary model ones like this are kitted out with modern features such as air-con and a wood interior. The Mini pick-up I imported from the UK last year has had a few mods and is a favorite of mine.
What’s the best thing and the worst thing about owning a classic Mini?
They are such a fun and unique car – everyone loves them. Everyone smiles when they see one and it’s always a talking point. Worst part is working on them: they can be a bit fiddly, especially the later model ones which have no space under the bonnet.
Apart from the Mini, what else sits in your garage?
A couple of Hyundai race cars: the championship-winning AP4 i20 rally car, and the i30N TCR circuit car from Europe. It’s a lot of fun to drive both these cars.
You also have a Hyundai Kona EV rally car project in the works?
Yes, it will be one of the world’s first purpose-built EV cars for rallying.
It’s a massive technical challenge, but we have a great team working hard to make the project a success. Hyundai is a leader in future innovation within the automotive industry, and we are using that as a base to showcase in the sport we love.
When do you expect it to be up and running?
With the current situation, things are delayed several months. But it will be launched this year, and testing in Q4 so we can look at doing some events in 2021.
Are you still pushing for a World Rally Championship seat?
The game has changed in the past weeks. We were about to sign a contract for four events in the WRC for 2020, but Covid put paid to that.
Now it’s a matter of let’s see what happens – will be tough now. But we won’t sit around waiting either; I’m committed and happy with the projects we also have here in NZ which I still hope will make our small team a global team long term.
You're based next to Highlands Motorsport Park. What’s it like being based there during lockdown, and at other times?
Yes my favorite part of the world. Not only for the amazing race track and facilities, but the landscape and environment here makes you feel lucky every time you wake up in the morning. Being in lockdown in the workshop is also not so bad, as it gives me a bit of time to catch up on things I normally wouldn’t have time to do.
Do you get to go for a track blat whenever you want?
As a Highlands member, yes we are able to use the track daily if we like when it’s open. Obviously it’s not open at present, but it’s a great place to have at the back door, and each and every member enjoys it.
You (and your Mini) are on today’s Motoka episode on TVNZ 1 at 4pm today. What was it like being part of a show like that?
To begin with, I was not sure what it was about. But once I spent some time with the crew in several locations around the country, it became apparent that this is a proper Kiwi motoring show – talking about something we all love but with a very individualised/personal feel.
Everyone has a different story to tell no matter if they know much about cars or not, and it’s truly fascinating.
Money no object, what’s your one ultimate car?
The 1995 or 1996 Group A Impreza rally car. Absolute dream car. They are getting pretty rare nowadays.
What are your three favourite cars TV shows or movies and why?
Don’t watch a lot of TV, but the ‘special episodes’ of Top Gear or The Grand Tour are always good for a laugh. Drive to Survive on Netflix is good viewing, and I’ve recently being enjoying the Erebus V8 team doco (Inside Line — A Season with Erebus Motorsport) on Sky. Movie wise, you can’t beat a bit of Disney's Cars.
What's on the to-do list, for the next six months?
A big push on getting our EV rally car up and running; that’s the main focus of our team. But as a small business, we obviously have a few challenges thrown at us now like any other businesses to make sure we can survive this year, so may require a little diversifying and thinking outside the box. So let’s see, but I do love a challenge.