Confirmed: Hayden Paddon reveals plans to race in TCR New Zealand series
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It's been a big old week for Kiwi tin-top motorsport fans, namely due to the confirmation from MotorSport New Zealand that we're set to have a TCR touring-car series up and running by 2020.
The caveat with those 'big plan' announcements of course is that simply announcing a category doesn't guarantee that a big grid of cars and drivers is attached. Well, just two days after that news, one of New Zealand's biggest recent motorsport names has put their hand up to say that they'll be there — Hayden Paddon.
At the launch of his new Paddon Rallysport complex next to Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell, Paddon announced that the team will enter the series with a Hyundai i30 N TCR. Going by the render circulated by Paddon, the team will sport factory support from Hyundai New Zealand along with other long-term backers like Würth and WinmaX.
"We are excited to announce Paddon Rallysport have a Hyundai TCR car on its way!" Paddon said on social media.
"Due to land in New Zealand next month, we will be using the car here at Highlands for testing and to develop my driving for our international commitments, before looking at the new NZ TCR series in 2020.
"The Paddon Rallysport fleet is quickly expanding! Huge thanks to everyone that helped to make this happen."
The news completed a big week for Australasian TCR announcements. Kelly Racing in Australia, who campaign three Nissan Altimas in the Supercars Championship, announced that they would field four cars in the upcoming 2019 Australian competition (two Opel Astras and two Subaru Imprezas). And closer to home, South Island TCR team M-Developments revealed their newly acquired SEAT Leon Cupra TCR weapon.
Now, reading between the lines, it's important to note that Paddon hasn't actually committed in his direct quotes to being the car's driver. The only thing known for certain is that Paddon Rallysport have a TCR coming, and are likely to campaign it in the up-and-coming championship.
If Paddon were to do what many before him have found impossible and return to the World Rally Championship for 2020, it's unlikely that he will have enough spare time on his calendar to compete in a New Zealand series. This potentially explains the lack of a concrete commitment.
The addition of a TCR car will double Paddon Rallysport's race-car fleet; complementing the team's AP4+ New Zealand Rally Championship Hyundai i20 (which itself had a new livery revealed yesterday).
Despite proudly wearing Paddon's name, the latter has been wielded by many a driver in its time; including the likes of Job Quantock and David Holder. If Paddon is to be absent, a similar model could apply to the TCR car.
All will be confirmed in due course of course. What we can say for sure is that these are exceptionally positive early signs, for a series that still has a lot to do before wheels first turn in anger in 2020.