Peden gets call-up to replace Kennard
Kiwi rally ace Hayden Paddon will be the star attraction in Whangarei this weekend but the man sitting next to him will be the one under the microscope.
Malcolm Peden might be the envy of his mates but his career highlight moment will come with plenty of pressure.
Peden, of Cambridge, will step in as Paddon’s co-driver for the International Rally of Whangarei due to regular Blenheim co-driver John Kennard recuperating from recent hip surgery and Paddon’s World Rally Championship (WRC) copilot Seb Marshall not being available.
Peden, 44, has been around the sport for 25 plus years with plenty of co-driving experience but concedes jumping in with Paddon is another level.
‘‘It’s like a Supercars team saying you’ve been going OK in go-karts why don’t you come and have a go in Supercars. It’s just unheard of,’’ Pedan said.
‘‘It’s definitely not just another event. It’s amassive step up and I know there’s a lot of expectation.’’
But Peden has the experience to overcome the challenge.
‘‘I’m trying not to put pressure on myself because you have to go in relaxed. You will always do a better job if you’re relaxed.’’
Paddon, who was keen to offer the opportunity to a New Zealand-based co-driver, put the word out via email and Peden jumped at what he described as a ‘‘once in a lifetime opportunity’’.
Paddon confirmed in a statement that he had received hundreds of applications from all around the world.
‘‘Key to us was the chance to work with someone who had solid experience but was still trying to develop their career.
‘‘Several very good people approached us, but we are confident Malcolm will do a good job and, most importantly, enjoy it.’’
Paddon and Peden have known each other for a long time.
‘‘For him to pick someone like me is huge. It doesn’t get much better than this,’’ Peden said.
‘‘He didn’t have to do it. He could have gone and got someone from overseas.’’
Paddon, who is racing an abbreviated 2018 WRC campaign, is chasing the 2018 New Zealand Rally Championship crown in his Hyundai i20 AP4+.
He will contest five rounds in amongst his WRC commitments.
At the completion of the 2017 WRC season, Hyundai Motorsport announced Paddon would be sharing a car in 2018 and would compete in just seven of the 13 rounds.
Peden said it was surreal when Paddon first informed him the job was his but the enormity of the task soon set in.
Just days after he was told he had the job, Peden flew to Blenheim to meet with Kennard and pick his brains for every possible piece of information before he went in for hip surgery.
Peden, who was a member of the inaugural Rally New Zealand co-drivers’ Academy in 2017, watched in-car footage of Kennard and Paddon at work and went through pace notes that the pair had previously used.
He and Kennard have been in almost daily contact since.
Peden has read pace notes for the likes of Andrew Hawkeswood, Phil Campbell and Alex Kelsey.
He has been in the national championship on and off for most of the last decade.
He was meant to co-drive for Campbell in Whangarei but his new car is not yet ready to hit the roads.
Peden also has brief overseas experience in New Caledonia and Queensland.
The International Rally of Whangarei serves as the second round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC).
Paddon, who flies to Europe on Monday to undertake preparations for the Rally Portugal that begins on May 17, is fresh from clean sweeping the opening round of the national championship – Rally Otago – with victories in all 17 special stages to win by a colossal margin of 8 minutes 27.7 seconds.
Hayden Paddon and John Kennard won every stage of Rally Otago in the Hyundai i20 AP4+ last month.
Hip surgery has ruled John Kennard out of the International Rally of Whangarei.