Paddon secures Hyundai WRC drive
Geraldine rally driver Hayden Paddon has become the first Kiwi to secure a professional contract to compete in the World Rally Championship (WRC).
Paddon announced yesterday he had signed a seven round deal with Hyundai Motorsport for 2014, with his first rally being round six of the season, Rally Italia Sardegna, from June 5 to June 8.
The 26-year-old Paddon and Blenheim-based co-driver John Kennard will compete in a Hyundai i20 WRC (world rally car), entered as Hyundai Motorsport N with the potential to earn points in both the manufacturers' and drivers' championships.
They will drive alongside team-mates Thierry Neuville and Juho Hänninen who will be in one car and Dani Sordo and Chris Atkinson in the other.
With the deal in place it also allows Paddon to focus on driving rather than trying to raise enough cash to earn a drive, which hampered his efforts in 2013.
Paddon contested just three events in the lesser Super 2000 category last year due to budget constraints before securing his first fully-fledged WRC drive with Qatar M-Sport at Rally Spain last October.
Paddon said being able to solely focus on driving would be huge.
"It has been a lot of stress over the few seasons just trying to find the money to get on the start line and I think subconsciously that affected the performance.
"We'll spend the time between now and June being around the team and going to the various rallies and working on the relationships and getting used to the car."
Paddon said he and his team had been working on securing the drive with Hyundai for some time.
"Ever since Hyundai said they would be entering about 18 months ago we've been knocking on the door trying to get a drive and with them being a very strong brand in Australasia, being a Kiwi actually helped us this time."
Paddon will be in Timaru for a sponsorship engagement tomorrow night before flying to Rally Mexico which begins on March 6.
He will be based in the German city of Frankfurt for most of the year to be close to the team.
He was also excited to work alongside the likes of Sordo and Neuville, who are considered names to watch out for in WRC.
"That's one of the big things for us, to work alongside guys like that. They both want to be competitive and I have no doubt this team will be winning races and championships."
- The Timaru Herald