Hayden Paddon's one-off drive for M-Sport Ford at Rally Finland has been given the full support of his long-term partner, Hyundai New Zealand.
Since being dropped from the Hyundai WRC squad at the end of 2018, Paddon's career as a WRC driver was looking grim.
However, a last minute reprieve from M-Sport, following Craig Breen's signing to Hyundai for Finland, has thrown life back into the Kiwi's world championship aspirations.
It appears driving for a different manufacturer in the WRC is not of real concern for Hyundai New Zealand, and if the chance arose, it could lead to more drives with M-Sport.
“Despite the disappointment that Hayden has faced since the end of last year, he has remained positive and committed to his WRC dream. We have and always will stand behind him in his pursuit to drive in the WRC,” Hyundai New Zealand’s General Manager Andy Sinclair said.
“Our relationship with Hayden is a strong one, and we have a lot of projects on the go with Hayden and the Paddon Rallysport team here in New Zealand.
"As soon as the opportunity arose to drive for M-Sport at Rally Finland, Hayden sought our opinion. Naturally we were thrilled for him that he was offered a WRC drive, and it went without saying that we'd support him.
“Hayden is a Hyundai NZ driver and ambassador, and most importantly, he is representing New Zealand, which means more to us than what model of car he is driving.
Hayden Paddon's last WRC event was Rally Australia last November. Photo: Peter Whitten
"As a 100 per cent Kiwi-owned company, our decision to support a New Zealand sportsperson of Hayden’s calibre is easy. Hayden is, and will continue to be, a fine ambassador for the Hyundai brand in New Zealand.
"He’s a New Zealander competing on a global scale with international fame, yet has remained humble, grounded and rooted to his home country.
“Along with our nationwide dealer network, customers and motorsport fans around New Zealand and the world, we have watched Hayden develop and grow an incredible amount, and are immensely proud of him.”
Paddon is naturally thrilled with the opportunity, and the support shown to him.
"Huge thanks to the team at Hyundai New Zealand who continue to support me fully. For them to have allowed us to chase this opportunity – it speaks volumes of how much they support my career and aspirations," he said.
"It is truly humbling. And thank you to everyone who has contributed financially to make this drive with M-Sport possible.
"Many of our existing shareholders in Hayden Paddon Rallysport Global (HPRG) have come back onboard to make this happen and in a very short space of time. It’s amazing!”
Paddon will complete a one-day test with the team in the Fiesta WRC before the 1-4 August running of Rally Finland.
“We will be giving the rally 110 per cent. Obviously being out of WRC competition for eight months puts us a little on the back foot, but both John and I are confident we can hop in, prepare well and be near the front.
"A top five would be the minimum expectation from myself but as always, I will be pushing for more.
“The ultimate goal is to be back in the WRC more regularly in 2020. I’m in a good phase at the moment; I feel like from a personal perspective and in terms of driving ability, things are at a good level and I want to utilise those skills again at the highest levels of world competition.
"I still have a lot I know I can achieve in the WRC – we just need that opportunity.”
Paddon's Rally Finland opportunity is being supported by Ben Nevis Station, Cusco, Winmax Brakes, Pak’nSave and Z Energy.
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