Recently crowned champion Hayden Paddon wants to return to the European Rally Championship next season – but is interested in dominating events over winning another title.
Paddon became the first non-European driver to be ERC champion on Barum Rally Zlín earlier this month, despite ripping his rear-right wheel off on the second day.
It was the only mistake of the 36-year-old’s season, as he led the championship from start to finish and scored six podium finishes from seven starts.
The Hyundai New Zealand driver only won one rally though, as his round one victory in Portugal prompted him to play the championship game with an early points lead to protect.
But the Kiwi is keen to return to the ERC in 2024 and do so with his foot flat to the floor.
“At the end of the day I can’t rule anything out [for next season],” Paddon told DirtFish.
“I’m probably swaying more towards doing ERC again and the thing I’d love to go back and do is now we’ve won the championship is to go back and dominate the rallies – try and win as many of the rallies as we can, not worrying about championship like we did this year. Just go all-out.
“That’s probably what would interest me, but if opportunities come up elsewhere then for sure we’ll look into all options.”
Asked if there was a particular event he’d love to win, Paddon replied: “All of them.
“Latvia and Poland are probably quite similar rallies in terms of the character of stages, but outside that they’re all very unique.
“I loved Sweden – that was an incredible rally with amazing stages and organization and everything.
“Barum Rally – maybe not my favorite stages but the atmosphere there and the people and the passion is huge. Same for Canary Islands. Portugal, when you’re in that famous Fafe region… I could talk about each and every rally, I’d just love the chance to be more competitive on all of them.”
WRC2 would perhaps appear a logical move after conquering the ERC, but Paddon thinks the latter suits his needs better.
“From a media perspective, for Hyundai New Zealand and our fans back at home, following an ERC rally I think is better value compared to WRC2,” he explained.
“The Rally2 cars are the main show, you’ve got a huge depth of competition and people are loving the tune of the watch.
“Not taking anything away from WRC2 at all, because it is obviously the cream of the Rally2 cars and when you’re a young driver that’s where you need to be. You need to be on the WRC events gaining experience and learning.
“But for me, I’ve been there, done that. Now for me it’s about enjoying the rallying and as I’ve said earlier in the season, for me winning rallies floats my boat a lot more than just trying to win a class.”
With budget for only seven rounds anyway, Paddon is set to miss this year’s final round in Hungary as his focus pivots to events back home in New Zealand.
But he is “trying to do one or two more European rallies this year if there’s some funding available” after catching “the bug to be back in Europe more often”.