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Ton up for WRC pair Paddon and Kennard

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 10/10/2016

One of New Zealand's most enduring sports partnerships will raise a notable century on the roads of Spain this week.

Driver Hayden Paddon and navigator John Kennard will reach the milestone of 100 rallies together at the Rally of Catalunya starting on Friday.

The union started in 2006 when an 18-year-old Paddon competed in his first New Zealand rally championship season.

They have reached numerous milestones since, from back-to-back national titles - with Paddon the youngest ever champion - to a production class World Rally Championship title in 2011 and their first WRC rally win in Argentina this year.

"It's been an incredible journey with John over the last 11 years and it's amazing to hit the century," Paddon said.

"Who would have thought after John first got in the car with me when I was 18 to just see how it goes that it has taken the path it has?"

Blenheim-based Kennard, 57, agrees he had no clue what lay ahead when he linked with Geraldine driver Paddon, 29.

While Paddon's name is most prominently linked with their achievements for the Hyundai team, Kennard is forging milestones of his own as the oldest co-driver in the WRC.

"We all only had dreams about how far we could take it, but, in the end, hard work and determination from so many people, plus sometimes Hayden's sheer bloody-mindedness to succeed, have brought it close to fruition," he said.

It will be the pair's fourth assault on the mixed surface rally based near Barcelona, the scene of their first-ever WRC stage win in 2014.

They are fourth overall after 11 of 14 rounds, having been leapfrogged by Belgian teammate Thierry Neuville when they placed sixth at the Rally of France two weeks ago.

Paddon is looking forward to the gravel stage on day one but says he will embrace the wide, smooth tarmac stages on Saturday and Sunday more than usual.

"They're as close as you get to circuit racing in rallying."

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