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Hayden Paddon is heading into next month's Rally Australia with the plan to enjoy himself, but admits there's also a chance it could be his last rally in a WRC car. The New Zealander contested the recent Wales Rally GB in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 MkII, and enjoyed getting back into the swing of a WRC event again. "It was just good to be doing a WRC format event again - getting back into the routine of recce, longer events etc., which was a good warm up for Australia," he said.
"Performance wise, our target there was always to help the team develop the car, and we came away with a lot of good data, so mission accomplished."
His testing crash in Finland earlier this year was unfortunate, but doesn't appear to have hurt his relationship with the Cumbrian-based M-Sport team. "It was a good week working with the team. Testing in a rally environment often brings a lot more things to the fore compared to just testing, so it was good to see this and react to it as the weekend progressed." His only day of testing in the World Rally Car before Rally Australia came in Spain last week, and went well. "We did one day in Spain last week with the WRC car in prep for Australia," he added. "Immediately the car felt good from the outset. They have a lot of experience with the car and it is well developed, so this makes me confident and comfortable going into Rally Australia."

Hayden Paddon plans on making the most of his Fiesta WRC drive at Rally Australia. Photo: Peter Whitten

While some see the one-off event at the end of the season as a 'make or break' rally for Paddon's future in the WRC, he's not treating it that way. "I’m not even thinking about 2020," he stressed.
"Of course I would like to be driving next year, but there is so much out of my control. Naturally, we will try and have a good result in Australia, but we're not putting any pressure of 2020 on us for that contract.
"You never know, this could be my last rally in a WRC car. As we saw 12 months ago, you never know what can happen. So for that reason, it’s important we enjoy the rally too." Paddon's chances of a top three result, let alone a top five, will be made all the more difficult given that it's the last rally of the season. The way things are looking, the WRC title may be decided by then, and all the top drivers will be pushing at their maximum to take the final win of the year. Given his lack of seat time in a WRC car since he finished second at Rally Australia last year, it makes Paddon's task even harder. Showing good speed and improving as the rally goes on will be a real win for him.

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