Kennard steps down

New Zealand's John Kennard will step down from his role as Hayden Paddon’s WRC co-driver after July’s Neste Rally Finland.

The 58-year-old made the announcement earlier today, as crews returned to Europe from Guanajuato Rally Mexico. His decision brings an end to a long partnership with Paddon which has taken the pair from domestic rallies in New Zealand to the top level of the WRC.

Kennard said: “After 12 years as Hayden’s co-driver, it will be hard to lever myself out of that Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC seat for the last time. But our deal has always been that I help Hayden in the most effective way possible and to have been his co-driver for so long, has been incredibly fulfilling and rewarding.

"When we first got in a car together, in 2006, the dream of winning the WRC seemed so far away, but now, as we push to achieve that ultimate goal, it's timely that we re-arrange roles for maximum effect and to help complete the quest we’re all on – to bring the WRC Championship trophy home to New Zealand.”

Paddon paid tribute to Kennard for the contribution he had made.

“Obviously, John has played a huge part in my career since we started working together at the end of 2005. We have achieved so much together and it has been quite a journey of highs and lows. It’s certainly sad to end the partnership, but we have been discussing over the last couple of years when was the best for both of us to make the transition with an eye towards the future," he said.

“I can’t thank John enough for everything he’s contributed in these 12 years, but this is not the end. He will stay involved, helping me behind the scenes and, as he has played an important part in the journey so far, it’s only natural that he remains a part of it.”

Kennard's rally career began as a driver in the late ‘70s, but he moved to the co-driver’s seat in 1985, claiming his first WRC podium alongside Kiwi driver Malcolm Stewart at Rally New Zealand in 1988. He later worked in management positions for WRC teams before an introduction to Paddon in 2005 bought him back into the sport competitively.

Together, they won the New Zealand Rally Championship in 2008 and 2009 before moving up to the Production World Rally Championship in 2010 and taking the title the following year. In 2013, the pair secured their third NZRC title, then in April last year they made history with victory at Rally Argentina as the first New Zealanders to ever win a round of the WRC.

An announcement regarding Paddon’s new co-driver will be made within a few days. Kevin Abbring's former co-driver Sebastian Marshall is widely expected to take over from Kennard.

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Paddon and Kennard in 2017