Former Hyundai factory driver Hayden Paddon will compete on a World Rally Championship event for the first time since 2019 after securing a deal to compete in WRC2 this year.
Paddon last appeared in the WRC on Rally GB in 2019, driving for M-Sport in an R5 Fiesta, and has more recently been working with Hyundai New Zealand to develop the world’s first electric rally car, the Kona EV.
But he will now switch back to a standard combustion engine, competing on selected WRC2 events throughout the year with Hyundai New Zealand in a Hyundai i20 N Rally2 car, with a view to competing full-time in the championship in 2023.
We have been trying so hard over the past two years to get back to the WRC. It’s been tough with everything going on in the world.Hayden Paddon
“We are delighted to work with Hyundai New Zealand as we embark on a two-year WRC2 campaign with the new Hyundai i20 N Rally2 car,” said Paddon.
“This year we have planned a campaign which allows us to get up to speed with the awesome i20 N Rally2 car, the car’s development and team development, before undertaking a full seven-round campaign in 2023 with the sole goal of winning that championship title.”
Paddon’s first outing with Hyundai New Zealand will be on Rally Estonia in July, followed by Rally Finland in August, before tackling his home event, Rally New Zealand on September 29, and he will retain his long-time co-driver John Kennard.
This isn’t the first time Paddon has attempted to reboot his WRC career since his Rally GB appearance in 2019. He was set for a four-round WRC program – Portugal, Sardinia, Finland and New Zealand – at the wheel of a customer i20 Coupé WRC in 2020 until the COVID-19 pandemic derailed his plans.
“I’m really looking forward to rallying in Europe again!”
“We have been trying so hard over the past two years to get back to the WRC. It’s been tough with everything going on in the world.
“So together with Hyundai New Zealand we decided to take matters into our own hands, and launch a Kiwi team to take on the WRC2.
“I am really excited about doing this campaign with our own team. Of course it’s going to be challenging but we have a clear target for this two-year program and we will be putting our best foot forward to try and achieve that.”
“Without the support of Hyundai New Zealand, both our WRC2 campaign and the general health of rallying in New Zealand would not be where it is today, so I am hugely humbled for their faith in us to attempt to bring home a world title.
“And, of course, the return of WRC Rally New Zealand will be exciting for everyone, being a key ‘must do’ sporting event in New Zealand this year.”