Paddon benched for Mikkelsen in Spain
Hyundai Motorsport has announced that Andreas Mikkelsen will join the WRC squad for the final three events of the season with New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon dropped from the line-up for Rally de España next month.
Mikkelsen will take part in all three remaining rounds of the World Rally Championship as Hyundai aims to fight for the Driver’s and Manufacturers’ Championship.
Mikkelsen joins Thierry Neuville, who is the middle of the fight for the Driver’s champion with Sebastien Ogier (M-Sport Ford) and local Dani Sordo in Spain.
Despite winning at Rally Australia last year, Mikkelsen was unable to secure a fulltime drive in 2017 following the withdrawal late last year of Volkswagen in the WRC. He has driven a WRC2 Skoda and also has appeared for the Citroen WRC team as it has struggled to fight at the front on different events this year.
“I am delighted to be joining Hyundai Motorsport and to be back in the WRC for the next three rallies,” said Mikkelsen.
“It is a great team with some very talented people, and the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC has proven itself to be a winning car on every surface. I had the chance to test on gravel earlier this year. I had a really positive feeling, which I am sure we will find again in these last three events of the season.
“My aim is to do all I can to help the team in the Manufacturers’ Championship. I have a great belief in them and the car, so I am super excited. Anders (Jaeger) and I are ready for this and we hope it will be the start of something more long-term.”
In making the announcement, Hyundai confirmed all drivers are under contract and the make-up for the final two events in the UK and in Coffs Harbour would be made prior to those events. Unless Sordo wins or performs above expectations in Spain, it is anticipated that Paddon will return for the gravel events in the UK and Australia.
“Reaching this decision was not easy, but we felt it was necessary to reaffirm ourselves in the championship battle,” said Team Principal Michel Nandan.
“Discussions with Andreas have been ongoing since he was out of a drive but we had nothing to offer him, as our line-up was fixed.
“We had an open discussion with all three of our crews, and informed them of our decision to make this adjustment. The precise line-up for Spain has been made, but we will confirm our crews for Wales and Australia in due course.”
Paddon is not the only young gun who will be missing in Spain with Citroen confirming that Irishman Craig Breen will make way on the event for French tarmac specialist Stephane Lefebvre. Like the Paddon situation, it is anticipated that Breen will be back in the line-up for Rally GB and Rally Australia.