Paddon ‘very upset’ at being overlooked for WRC cameo

Hayden Paddon at his last WRC start with Hyundai

Hayden Paddon has expressed his disappointment at being overlooked for a drive with Hyundai in the next round of the World Rally Championship.

The New Zealander was benched for the Spain round in 2017 and demoted to a part-time role in 2018, before finally being dumped altogether by Hyundai when it signed Sebastien Loeb to a two-year contract.

While the Alzenau team’s original plan was for Loeb to alternate with Sordo, as Paddon had done last year, it has already twice opted to instead sideline Andreas Mikkelsen from its three-car roster.

Hyundai therefore faced a problem for August’s Rally Finland, with Loeb having already completed five rallies out of the six he is contracted for and still with Rally de España, which the nine-time champion won last year, to come.

While Thierry Neuville, currently seven points off the championship lead, was a guaranteed starter, neither Mikkelsen nor Sordo were especially keen to compete.

Hyundai has now appointed former Citroen WRC driver Craig Breen to join Neuville and Mikkelsen for Round 9 of the season.

In a lengthy social media post, Paddon made it clear that he was in fact keen to take the drive but claims it was never even offered to him.

The 32-year-old also refuted reports, from both recently and last year, which had him as having knocked back a deal to contest one round of WRC this year, despite having said so himself last December when Loeb’s signing was announced.

“I will make one single post here about the current situation and our feelings, as for too long we have said nothing and tried to do the right thing,” began Paddon on his public Facebook page.

“Firstly, happy for Craig and I wish him all the best for the rally.

“I will point out all the talk that we turned down the offer of a 1 Rally drive with Hyundai is not correct and was blown out of proportion from media speculation.

“Originally there was talk of this when we first got news of no seat for 2019 last December, and at the time emotion was raw after being left high and dry. However nothing was formally discussed.

“Since February we have actively been in communication to be involved with the team in any role – testing, 1 off rallies (Finland)…..anything.

“My passion is still very high for WRC and I feel I’m at my prime at present. I know the car well and was prepared to jump straight in and do a good job for the team.

“So naturally you can understand we are very upset. I have given my life to this brand in everything I do. Our NZ business, our NZ Hyundai partnership, purchase of a TCR car, everything we possibly could do!

“And yet we were not even spoken to about this event despite us offering our services several times.

“Since we did our last rally in Australia, we have had very little communication from them – no acknowledgment of our time with them, no formal thank you, no heads up on the future.”

Paddon is still backed by the local arm of Hyundai in New Zealand, and is this year competing in selected Pacific Cup rounds of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in Hyundais.

He also entered his home event, last weekend’s South Canterbury Rally, in an i20 and will be part of the new-for-2019 Global Rallycross Europe, starting this weekend, in an i30-bodied car.

“I will say through all this, how much we appreciate the unconditional support from Hyundai NZ and how much they have my back. They fully support all our comments,” continued the post.

“Many people say we need to cut our ties – well, think of it this way, do you cut your ties for a couple of years in the WRC vs a potential lifetime partnership in this part of the world? It’s never as straightforward as most people think.”

Paddon finally addressed his fans specifically and reiterated that he bears no ill will towards Breen.

“Big thanks to all your support. Means a lot,” he added.

“Again I stress this is nothing against Craig, I have nothing but respect for him and it’s only natural you take what opportunities you can.”

Rally Finland takes place on August 1-4, making the conclusion of WRC’s summer break.

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