Paddon filling WRC gaps with local rallies


Hayden Paddon will fill the gaps in his 2018 World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar by competing in local events at home in New Zealand.

This comes after Paddon’s team, Hyundai Motorsport axed plans to run a full-time four car programme in WRC this season because of a lack of funding, leaving the squad to juggle it’s four drivers – Andreas Mikkelsen, Thierry Neuville, Dani Sordo, and Paddon – over three cars.

Mikkelsen and Neuville both picked up full-season roles at the team, while Paddon and Sordo run a shared programme aboard the squad’s third i20 Coupe WRC, splitting the drive between a select number of events throughout 2018.

“I’m not going to pretend I don’t want to be doing the whole championship,” said Paddon.

“Of course I do, that’s what every driver wants. But that’s not happening this year, so I have to accept it and make the best out of every opportunity I get.

“What’s really important is that I get seat time and I’m out driving in the gaps between rounds of the world championship.”

Paddon will drive a similar model Hyundai i20 at the five New Zealand rallies which he is set to compete, allowing the Kiwi more seat time and opportunity to gain more experience.

“That’ll help keep me sharp,” he added. “It’s not ideal, but it’s driving and that’s what I need.

“I’m scheduled for a day of testing before each WRC round, so it’s vital to stay sharp.”

Sordo will drive the opening round of the WRC in Monte Carlo later this month, before Paddon gets to hop in the car for Round 2 in Swedan.

His programme then has a three-month break between Swedan and Round 6 of the WRC in Portugal in May, which is the only rally Hyundai are planning to run all four of their drivers.

After that, Paddon will contest Italy, Finland, Turkey, Great Britain and Australia, while Sordo’s programme comprises Monte Carlo, Mexico, Corsica, Argentina, Germany and Spain as well as Portugal.

“When you have a driver like Dani, if you want a big chance for the manufacturers’ championship, we know it’s better to have him on the Tarmac rallies,” explained team principal Michel Nandan.

“After that, as much as we could, we let them do the events they wanted.”

Speaking at the back end of last year, Paddon admitted all hopes of challenging for the World Rally Championship would be lost for 2018 with his limited rounds in the series.

“We always said next year (2018) is our target year [to win the championship], I think that’s now out the window. We’re not going to be given that opportunity by the team,” concluded Paddon in the lead up to Rally Australia.

“But we just have to use the opportunity we’ve got next year to get back on the horse.

“It’s almost like going back to two years ago; we’ve got to go back and prove ourselves and try and get bigger opportunities and focus on 2019.

“Sometimes you’ve got to take a step back to take two forward. I’ve got to keep a glass half full vision towards it all.”

Rally Monte Carlo takes place from January 25-28.