Hyundai World Rally Championship star, Hayden Paddon, is intent on focussing on the positives ahead of the 2018 season, despite a reduced program of events with the German-based team this year.
After a disappointing 2017 season where nothing seemed to fall his way, Paddon and co-driver, Seb Marshall, won't make their season debut until February's Swedish Rally, after most of their WRC rivals have already got an event under their belts.
"Dani (Sordo) and I will be sharing the third car throughout the year, with a focus on each of our strong events," Paddon told RallySport Magazine.
Hyundai have not yet publicly announced Paddon's full program, and while the New Zealander is aware of what the season has in store for him, he's not yet in a position to release his full WRC program.
A podium finish for Paddon at Rally Australia was a positive way to finish the season for the Kiwi. Photo: Dave King
A late start to the year will also mean that he is behind the eight-ball against his rivals when he finally gets back behind the wheel.
"We will have a one-day test at the end of January in preparation for Rally Sweden, but it will mean that come Rally Sweden we will be lacking a lot of seat time compared to others who have also done extensive Monte testing.
"But we will use that as fire to beat the odds," he added.
The first year of the 2017 WRC car rules generally saw the Hyundai as the fastest car over the course of the season, but Paddon says this year's i20 WRC will feature only minor changes.
"The changes are quite subtle, as it will be for most teams.
"Of course there are updates and lessons learnt from last year, and there are a couple of areas of focus (for the team).
"From my perspective, it's just a matter of getting back to basics and driving whatever the car is."
Hayden Paddon will use a reduced 2018 program as an incentive to succeed. Photo: Dave King
His WRC outings may be reduced in 2018, but the Kiwi will be anything but bored. He's likely to contest more than a dozen rallies, including his home national championship in Hyundai New Zealand's i20 AP4+.
"We are looking to do most of the NZ championship with our NZ team. It's important that no matter the events or car, that we are still competing to stay fresh.
"If we just sit on the sidelines between WRC events we will get dusted.
"Between WRC, NZ and some other events, we should still be doing 15-16 events throughout the year – so will be a busy year."
Britain's Seb Marshall will call the pace notes in all international events, with long-time partner, John Kennard, jumping back into the car for New Zealand rallies.
Paddon debuted the i20 AP4+ in New Zealand at the Otago Rally in early 2016, winning convincingly. Since then, the car has been driven by David Holder, Job Quantock and, on occasions, by Paddon himself.
Hyundai New Zealand have continued to develop the car over the past two years, although for 2018 it will continue to be powered by a 1.8-litre engine that is technically outside the AP4 regulations – hence it running as an AP4+.
Hyundai New Zealand's i20 AP4 debuted in spectacular fashion on the 2016 Otago Rally. Photo: Peter Whitten
"The intention was to go 1.6-litre this year, but we simply don’t have the budget or time at present to start and develop a new engine from scratch," Paddon explained.
"We are starting to make some good progress to the car thanks to the hard work of our team.
"For this year we will continue to do some updates on the chassis and engine, fine tuning the steering system and some development work to suspension and diffs.
"The car is really coming along and it's all info we can pass on to other teams to help the AP4 category move forward more quickly."
Hayden Paddon is confident that more WRC wins are on the way, despite a tough 2017 season. Photo: Dave King
Paddon's attitude to focus on the positives and move on from the negatives of 2017 couldn't be clearer.
Amazingly, he was left out of a New Zealand Herald article that ranked the Top 10 New Zealand motorsport drivers, and he also didn't cut the mustard in WRC commentator Colin Clark's much-anticipated Top 10 WRC drivers.
But Paddon is neither concerned, nor bitter.
"It does not worry me the slightest," he says.
"I don’t need to read one's opinion to know if we had a good or bad season – I am my own worst critic and know if we have done a good job or not.
"Also, in this day and age, people are often too quick to judge without knowing the true story or what is really happening – judging one purely by the results is like judging a book by the cover.
"2017 was a bad year, but it was my first bad one in 20 years of motorsport.
"Many lessons were learnt and it is now behind us – 2018 is about getting back on the horse, enjoying the driving, and getting the results that I know we are capable of."
RallySport Magazine wishes Paddon all the best as the re-boot begins.
The 2018 Hyundai i20 WRC is Paddon's office for the year.
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