Paddon’s WRC2 title plan in doubt

Hayden Paddon had hoped to mount a WRC2 title title in 2023, but could turn to the ERC instead

FIA European Rally Championship 2022 Stop 5 – Liepaja, Latvia

Hayden Paddon’s plan to win next year’s WRC2 title is in doubt, but the European Rally Championship is “of interest” as an alternative.

Paddon, who picked up another New Zealand Rally Championship title and a maiden Asia Pacific Rally Championship success, returned to Europe for the first in three years in 2022, contesting three rallies including his home event as well as Rally Liepāja in the ERC.

The one-time WRC rally winner had intended to use 2022 as a platform to rebuild his pace and experience before a full seven-round WRC2 campaign in 2023 in his Hyundai i20 N Rally2.

But a budget shortfall could prevent him from fulfilling those plans.

“Well, yes and no. We’re still in the planning stages,” Paddon told DirtFish when asked if a WRC2 title push remained the plan.

“Sure, 100% we’ll be in Europe next year doing something in some shape or form. The reality is WRC2 budget wise was more than what we expected this year, even for the limited program we did.

“And there’s a few obstacles there that make it pretty hard for a small team like us to do it, so we haven’t entirely ruled it out, but we are looking at other options as well.

“The main thing is that we’re doing regular rallies in Europe and that we’re competitive, they’re the two main factors. And the problem is if you go to WRC2 on a limited budget, you’re on a hiding to nothing and that’s what we learned this year.

Paddon Hayden

“This year the budget was about 30% higher than what we expected,” he added, “and that was with no damage and pretty much missing a rally [through COVID-19] with Estonia as well.

“As I said, to give it a decent go you need to have a good test program, you need to have a good spares package, you need to be able to go into the rallies in a relaxed mindset that you don’t have to worry about the finances if you like.

“As soon as things are really tight, really stretched and you’re trying to save every cent you can, you’re on a hiding to nothing and you’ve got to work so hard to find the money in the first place.

“It’s the same as any business decision, you’ve got to find the best value for money at the end of the day.”

FIA European Rally Championship 2022 Stop 5 - Liepaja, Latvia

Asked what else he could do, Paddon said: “ERC is of interest. We’re looking at maybe some ERC stuff and maybe some WRC2 stuff. It’s all just still in the planning stages at the moment.”

But he insisted his desire is to still win a championship of some sort.

“Maybe ERC could be a championship we target equally as much as a WRC2 championship,” Paddon explained.

“We just have to weigh up the pros and cons of both and what we can realistically achieve.”

Either way, Paddon will have to do it his own way as there was no Rally1 reprieve with his old employer Hyundai.

It would be nice to get a little bit more support one day given how loyal we've been to the brand Hayden Paddon on Hyundai Rally1 talks

Paddon’s name had tentatively been linked with one of the team vacancies before it confirmed Esapekka Lappi and Craig Breen would join Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo next season, but Paddon said there was never any genuine interest from Hyundai in his services.

“I put up our hand saying of course we’re interested, I knew we were a long shot but there was never any interest from the other side,” he said.

“At the end of the day I understand that’s how it is, but it would be nice to get a little bit more support one day given how loyal we’ve been to the brand.

“We pretty much sacrificed our WRC career a few years ago to continue our loyalty to the brand and Hyundai New Zealand’s been very good to us, but globally that loyalty feels like it means nothing.”