Hayden Paddon is closing on a deal to return to next year’s World Rally Championship for a shot at the WRC2 title.
The New Zealander has been absent from the full-time world championship since 2018, but did drive in WRC2 for M-Sport on Rally GB 2019.
However, the Rally Argentina winner is working on a two-year agreement to return and drive a Hyundai i20 N Rally2.
“Rally2 is the most realistic option,” Paddon told DirtFish. “Naturally, I want to be in a Rally1 car, but I know I need to get back [to WRC] and that’s why we’re working on some stuff for next year.
“We’re not there yet with the program, but if you look back to PWRC and SWRC you’ll find that a lot of drivers start their campaigns later into the season – it gives you just that little bit more time to secure the funding.
“That’s what we’re doing right now. We’re working with Hyundai New Zealand, we obviously have very good relations with them, they’ve stuck with us through thick and thin.”
Paddon admitted there had been times when he’d been close to a WRC return over the last two years – including a scrapped four-round program with an i20 Coupe WRC in 2020.
“Four times,” he said, “I had the chance opportunity to do something, but they were one-offs and COVID really got in the way of that.
“I’ve been trying to get back overseas and doing it over two years is the sensible way to do it. There’s no point going back for five minutes.”
A big target for Paddon next season is Rally New Zealand – an event he hopes could bring a chance to return to rallying’s big time.
“To be in a Rally1 car for Rally New Zealand would be the dream,” he said. “I know the roads like the back of my hand and I think I could do a good job. I still feel we’re in really good shape and I know I’m driving well.
“Obviously I’ve been working with my Kona EV here and that gives me some insight into how to drive an electric or hybrid car.”