Twelve years, 109 starts, 26 victories, 45 podiums – those are the statistics that mark the competitive career of the kiwi co-driver alongside Paddon.
Finland is where Kennard contested his first international event as a driver (Mänttä Rally) and his first-ever event as a co-driver (WRC Rally of 1000 Lakes), so it was fitting for this special celebration of Kennard’s rallying career to be held at Rally Finland. Finland is also Kennard’s second home and has influenced his life and career a great deal; it was originally meant to be the pair’s final event together.
Kennard says: “After 12 years as Hayden’s co-driver, it was hard to lever myself out of that Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC seat for the last time – which turned out to be in Argentina. 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.”
While Kennard’s seat in Paddon’s Hyundai i20 WRC Coupe is now occupied by British co-driver Seb Marshall, Kennard continues to play a vital role with Hyundai Motorsport.
“At the moment, I’m just trying to be Hayden’s eyes and ears around the events," Kennard says, "so he has info on things he maybe can’t see during the very busy rally week. I’m also working with Seb, on the notes for stages that are re-used from previous years and, when the remaining tarmac events come round, I’ll be in the route note car with Australian Brendan Reeves giving the crew all the latest information we can about stage conditions, just before they contest them.”
Now 58, Kennard started rallying as a driver competing in club and national events in his twenties. In 1985 he contested his first World Rally Championship event as a co-driver, alongside Brent Rawstron in the Finnish 1000 Lakes Rally.
Kennard joined Hayden Paddon as his co-driver in 2005 as Paddon prepared to contest the New Zealand Rally Championship for the first time in 2006. He recalls: “While I didn’t particularly like working with youngsters, as soon as I got in the car with Hayden, then aged 18, I realised he was different. Mature and sensible for someone so young. I’ve been in cars testing with Carlos (Sainz) and Colin (McRae) and he reminded me of them. Hayden knew what he wanted and had a lot of talent, so I said I’d carry on as his co-driver.”