Like many professional drivers, Hayden Paddon career began in karts. Racing from the age of six, he sold his kart when he was 13 to buy a grass-track Mini. Supported by his father Chris, a club rally driver, he enjoyed success in Motorkhana in the Mini and rally sprints as co-driver to his father in a Toyota Levin.
Hayden Paddon had his first rally behind the wheel in 2002 when he was 15. Driving his father’s Toyota fitted with learner plates, he finished fourth in class. Two seasons in the South Island Rally Championship followed, before a step up to a four-wheel drive Mitsubishi in 2005 and the New Zealand Junior and Rookie titles in 2006. He won the championship outright in 2008.
Paddon’s international ambitions were given a boost in 2009 when he won a Pirelli Star Driver scholarship to tackle the 2010 PWRC. He finished third that year, but a self-funded return in 2011 was more successful, and Paddon became the first Australasian winner of an FIA world rally title.