Hyundai will reshuffle its line-up for the final round of the World Rally Championship in Wales next month with Thierry Neuville ousted from the main squad in favour of Kiwi Hayden Paddon.
As was the case for Rally Australia last month, Paddon and co-driver John Kennard will take charge of the #8 i20 however experienced Spaniard Dani Sordo will step into the #7 normally occupied by Neuville for Rally GB from November 12-15.
Belgian Neuville’s indifferent form has seen him demoted to the Mobis-backed #20 i20.
The move is a boon for Paddon who will now become a central figure in Hyundai’s push to claim second in the manufacturer’s championship.
Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul were told of the reshuffle during a meeting at the team’s German headquarters yesterday.
Hyundai says the move will take pressure off Neuville as the Korean maker pushes to overtake Citroen in the points.
Citroen currently has a one-point lead over Hyundai after 11 of 13 rounds.
“This decision has been reached following a productive meeting with the team in which we both discussed openly our thoughts ahead of the final rounds of the season and planning for 2016,” Neuville said.
“For me, the decision to move to the #20 car for Wales Rally GB will free me up from any Championship pressure and allow me to focus solely on my own driving,” Neuville said.
“This will be important as I strive to regain my confidence ahead of 2016.
“Next year will be an important season for all of us so this approach will allow me to get my pace back and enter the winter period in the perfect mindset.”
Team manager Alain Penasse said the decision to bump Neuville out of the frontline attack was not taken lightly.
“We know we need to fight as hard as possible in the remaining rounds of 2015 to secure second place in the Championship.
“Picking up as many points as we can in these events is vital and the drivers’ form is key to unlocking our full potential.
“Talking to Thierry, we felt that we needed to find a way for him to regain his confidence and we think removing Championship pressure from him will help him get back on track ahead of our 2016 campaign.”
Hyundai will field its normal line-up for the Spanish rally from October 23-25 with Neuville in the #7, Sordo (#8) and Paddon in the #20 machine.