Hayden Paddon returns to the FIA World Rally Championship in 2015 with Hyundai Motorsport and an expanded programme of events at the wheel of a Hyundai i20 WRC car starting with round two, Rally Sweden. Now in their ninth year together, John Kennard will continue in the co-driver’s seat.
The programme will comprise of a minimum of nine events, which gives Paddon the considerable benefit of more competitive kilometres in the Hyundai i20 WRC and a greater chance to prove himself against the world’s best drivers.
“We are very excited to continue working with Hyundai Motorsport with an expanded programme,” says Paddon who is home in New Zealand for a short break following his successful WRC debut season during which he contested six WRC events with Hyundai, scored WRC drivers’ championship points on five events and won his very first WRC stage in October’s Spanish rally.
“We learnt a lot and built some really good partnerships within the team this year and it was an obvious choice for us to develop more and chase better results in 2015. Also, the confirmation of us doing more events will be crucial for us to develop as a driver and to work closer with the team.”
Paddon and Kennard will again race the team’s third Hyundai i20 WRC car. With Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo in the two other Hyundai i20 WRC, the team will have a consistent driver line-up through the 2015 season.
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “I am pleased that Hayden will continue to be part of the Hyundai Motorsport team in 2015 and taking part in a greater number of events with us. He had a great first WRC season with us, putting in some eye-catching performances and helping us a lot in the development of our team and car. He gives excellent technical feedback and works very well as part of a close-knit team with the engineers and mechanics. He has already proven himself more than capable of rallying with the best drivers in the world and his personal development was evident as he reduced the gap to his more experienced colleagues. We are happy to be supporting this next phase in his career and look forward to seeing what he can do in the coming season, which promises to be an exciting one for Hyundai Motorsport.”
Paddon says: “The first part of 2015 will remain a learning curve as we will be competing on events that we have little or no experience of, but this is an exciting challenge and with each and every event comes greater knowledge of the car and our capabilities.
“In the mid to later part of the season, once we return to the events that we did this year, we believe we can be very competitive and start pushing to be fighting among the top five. We have high hopes for the year and look forward to working with the team and helping with the development of the Hyundai i20 WRC further.
“John and I are really looking forward to a very exciting year. With every year that passes, we are working harder to make the most of the opportunities we have, and 2015 will be a huge year for us to try and consolidate our place in the WRC. It would be a dream if we can then remain with a manufacturer team to fight for victory when Rally New Zealand returns in 2016.
“We are still relatively new in the WRC at this level, however with some more time, we feel ready to take the next step and Hyundai will be able to provide us with the best opportunity both short and long term to make that step. With more rallies and more testing, we will be in the best position than ever to show what we can do.”
Co-driver John Kennard is also buzzing for the year ahead: “It’s fantastic to have this expanded opportunity to continue our development within the great team we’ve already come to know. With a programme that will almost treble our WRC car experience, we’re really looking forward to making some more exciting progress in 2015.”
Paddon returns to Europe mid-January to commence testing for the Swedish rally which will be the second time they’ll have competed in Sweden’s famed icy, wintery conditions. Despite not competing in the season opening Rallye Monte-Carlo, Paddon and Kennard will still participate in the pre-event recce to build experience for the future.