Paddon’s new co-driver shares about shift

By Catherine Pattison on Sat, 10 Jun 2017 | Motorsport | Rally
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Brit Seb Marshall (left) will become New Zealand WRC driver Hayden Paddon’s co-driver permanently from this week’s Rally Italia Sardegna. PHOTO: MCKLEIN IMAGES

Englishman Seb Marshall is about to become a regular fixture in New Zealand's motorsport media, so Catherine Pattison decided to find out a bit more about Hayden Paddon's new co-driver.


Q Tell me a bit about your background, including where you are from, age and co-driving experience?

I'm 29, living in Leeds in northern England. I've been co-driving since I was 16, turning professional in 2010. Since then I've done JWRC [Junior World Rally Championship], ERC [European Rally Championship] and of course WRC [World Rally Championship] events as co-driver and also at times as gravel crew, team co-ordinator etc.

Q How did you end up as Paddon's new WRC co-driver?

We've been in the same team together for the last few years (while I was co-driving for [Hyundai driver] Kevin Abbring) and we got to know each other then. I sat in the co-driver seat with Hayden a couple of times on test when John [Kennard] was unavailable (one time back in NZ tending to the vines) and it kind of went from there really.

Q Has it always been a goal/dream of yours to co-drive in the full WRC?

Definitely, when I started watching the sport as a kid I thought it would be incredible to be able to compete at the top level but a part of me didn't even dare to dream that it would be possible. I took each step as it came, but always having that ultimate goal in the back of my mind.

Q What was it like co-driving for Paddon that first time in the Italian Rally Championship round?

It was a really enjoyable experience. Sanremo is one of my favourite tarmac events (and I think Hayden's now too). The stages are very nice, good atmosphere and of course for ourselves we had a great debut together. It all felt very natural in the car as though we've been working together for ages, and that was the same sensation when we did WRC Portugal a couple of weeks ago.

Q Do you feel John Kennard has left a gap that will take time to fill?

Of course it's a different voice that Hayden is hearing calling the notes and everything else that comes with the role of a co-driver, but as we've been working together for nearly a year now I think the switch has been as straightforward as possible. Obviously John has been with Hayden since the beginning practically so they are very much in tune with each other, but I've been sat in the car on all the testing this year so we already know each other well and how we like to work.

Q How much communication/support do you have from Kennard before each WRC round?

John has been a great help to me in this transition period. We're liaising closely on things like Hayden's pace notes from previous years that we can use again this year. It's nice that he's at the events too and of course remains an integral part of the team.

Q Have you rallied in New Zealand before?

I've never even visited NZ but it has been on my bucket list for years! Many friends who have visited all say they want to move there, plus I have some relatives out in New Zealand too so I can't wait to finally experience it for myself soon.

Q What are the chances of you partnering Paddon when he returns home to contest two rounds of the New Zealand Rally Championship later this year?
The plan at present is that John will co-drive in Rally Coromandel [in August], and subject to NZ being on the WRC calendar next year I'll potentially compete at Rally New Zealand in November as a warm-up for 2018.

Q Is co-driving in the Otago Rally on your radar?

It's one of those events that people rave about and is one of Hayden's favourites (having seen some videos I can see why) so it's definitely one I'd like to sample in the future.