Paddon secures last-minute M-Sport drive for Rally Finland
Hayden Paddon is a surprise Rally Finland inclusion after the New Zealander secured a last-minute deal to drive M-Sport Ford’s third Fiesta WRC.
Overlooked for a Hyundai return in favour of Craig Breen, Paddon decided not to ‘cry about the decision’ and get on with finding an alternative.
His agreement, which is for one event at the moment, with the British team was concluded in two days, just ahead of the Monday deadline for the Jyvaskyla-based event.
Paddon told Motorsport.com of his desire to be back at the highest level. He said: “After the Hyundai news came in, we were mulling it over and there’s no way we were going to sit in a corner and cry about it.
“It has been really hard sitting at home watching the WRC unfold this year, especially as I know we can deliver at a high level.
“We decided to make things happen as we are not going to achieve anything by sitting around.”
Paddon, who will be co-driven by John Kennard, will test the Ford Fiesta WRC for a day in Finland ahead of the August 1-4 event.
The Kiwi’s last WRC action was his runners-up spot at November’s Rally Australia, his final Hyundai outing before Sebastien Loeb joined the team and took the seat he was expected to take up in 2019.
Paddon has a strong record in Finland and rates the season’s fastest rally among his favourites.
“We will be giving the rally 110 per cent,” he said. “Obviously being out of WRC competition for eight months puts us a little on the back foot, but 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.”
Former Rally Argentina winner Paddon is clear on his objectives from the drive, adding: “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.”
The opportunity came courtesy of a green light from Hyundai New Zealand, Paddon’s partner manufacturer down under.
“I have to say a huge thanks to the team at Hyundai New Zealand who continue to support me fully," he said. "For them to have allowed us to chase this opportunity, it speaks volumes of how much they support my career and aspirations. It is truly humbling.”
M-Sport team principal Richard Millener said he was looking to welcome Paddon back to the Cumbrian squad where he began his World Rally Car dream.
“Hayden drove for us in Spain in 2013,” Millener told Motorsport.com. “That was his first time in a World Rally Car, so it’s great to have him back with us.
“And it’s great to see him back in the WRC. We’re all excited to see what he can do behind the wheel of the Fiesta. He’s a proven rally winner, and it’s great for us to have a driver of his calibre as we set our sights on another strong performance.
Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, M-Sport Ford WRT Ford Fiesta WRC
Photo by: M-Sport
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