Hayden Paddon has been forced to withdraw from Rally Estonia, his first World Rally Championship event in three years, after testing positive for COVID-19.
Estonia is the first of a planned three-round WRC2 program this year for Paddon, with trips to Rally Finland and Rally New Zealand scheduled later in the year.
Driving a Hyundai i20 N Rally2, the Argentina 2016 winner knew he would struggle to match the frontrunners for outright pace, and indeed he was lying eighth in class at first service – struggling to find a “feeling” with the car and with dealing with ruts in the road which he doesn’t have to deal with back home in New Zealand.
Paddon retired at the Friday morning regroup, with issues aboard his Hyundai that had slowed his pace somewhat widely anticipated as being the reason – but in a social media statement he revealed that he had in fact tested positive for coronavirus.
“Unfortunately we have had to withdraw from Rally Estonia. Gutted is an understatement but we have been left with no option,” he said.
“I started feeling unwell last night but returned negative COVID tests. This morning I continued to feel quite ill and couldn’t focus at all on the stages and driving.
“At midday service another COVID test was taken which returned a positive result. We have now had to follow all COVID protocols which means withdrawal from the rally.
“A big thanks to Hyundai NZ for the understanding of this situation which is such incredibly poor timing, especially after dodging COVID for the past two years.
“We will now focus on full health and recovery to give Rally Finland a good nudge. Sorry everyone.”