Motorsport: Kiwi driver Hayden Paddon launches Otago Rally into future with electric vehicle

Paddon. Photo credit: Newshub.

Former World Rally driver Hayden Paddon will launch the Otago Rally into the future, as he steers his Hyundai Kona electric-powered vehicle during the super stage this weekend.

The Kiwi is continuing to test his electric rally car as an alternative in the petrol-fueled world, in a bid to keep the expensive sport afloat.  

"We are sticking our necks out a little bit, especially in a petrol-driven world," Paddon tells Newshub. "To come out with an electric car is putting our head above water."

Paddon is no stranger to the Otago roads, tearing them up 11 times previously and claiming victory by more than nine minutes in 2019.

The 33-year-old is chasing a record-breaking eight title, with Padden and co-driver John Kennard driving the more tradtional Hyundai i20 AP4 in the rest of the rally.

But moving to electric vehicles, even in the WRC, is something Paddon believes is critical to the sport's survival.

"It's about creating more opportunities long term for other drives," Paddon adds. "At the moment, there are five factory seats in the world of rallying.

"That is simply not enough."

The Geraldine native's green credentials are rubbing off on event organisers, with the rally the first in New Zealand to offset the carbon emissions of its competitors.

"We are all very conscious of making our sport sustainable," says Otago Rally organiser Roger Oakley. "It's, if you like, the social license of being able to what we do."

The rally is proud to do it with one of New Zealand's best rally car drivers, while Paddon relishes time at home and out of the WRC spotlight.

"I'm actually enjoying it more in these last two years than when we were overseas," Paddon says. "You know, we're doing some very big things here."

The big changes Paddon is making may just help drive the sport into the future and beyond.