Hayden Paddon reveals his 'only WRC option' for 2019
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Hayden Paddon is putting energy into New Zealand rally projects while continuing to wait on news of where he might fit into the Hyundai Motorsport WRC programme in 2019.
Paddon had his last day of driving duty for the year at the TECT All Terrain Park near Tauranga on Saturday giving VIP rides in his New Zealand title-winning Hyundai i20 AP4 car.
The 31-year-old has an uncertain WRC future with Hyundai management yet to announce its full driver roster or rotation strategy as the entry deadlines loom for the first events of 2019.
"We know as much as anyone else at the moment,’’ Paddon said.
"So, I’m enjoying a bit of summer, focussing on some projects here in New Zealand and literally just waiting for the phone call.
"I can understand the speculation and rumours. It shows the level of interest in the sport and people enjoy that stuff. The media like writing about it and people like reading it. I guess I just have to deal with that.
"It’s mentally pretty tough but you have to ignore all the rumours. At the end of the day we have to trust in the discussions we’ve been having over the last three months and trust in what we did in the stages during the year and hope for the best outcome.’’
Paddon contested seven WRC events with Hyundai in 2018, achieving two podiums and a pair of fourth places.
"There were probably two highlights — Australia and Finland, where we were able to be a bit more competitive.
"Personally, Portugal was also quite pleasing. To have been out of the car for so long and come back and be leading the rally on the first day was quite nice.’’
Hayden Paddon rates Rally Australia among the highlights of his 2018 campaign. Photo / INMOTION/Greg Henderson
But Paddon says Portugal was also a wake-up call and dictated a different approach for later events.
"We went into Portugal the way we normally do. We were pushing and obviously we had the accident.
"That was a wake-up call. When you are out of the car for a little bit, coming back and being at that highest level involved risks that weren’t coming as naturally as they used too.
"If we had accidents like that every rally we were going to be out of a job. We had to bring it back a notch and make sure we finished rallies. In Australia we were let loose again and it was nice to drive a bit more freely.’’
Paddon said continuing with the Hyundai squad is his only WRC option for 2019.
"There is no other option anywhere else. What we’ve done with Hyundai New Zealand has been substantial in the past and we have a long-term arrangement with Hyundai New Zealand.
"WRC is the main priority for now but that can only go on for another three-to-five years and I need to plan for life after WRC as well.
"We’ve got a nice programme in New Zealand that will be a step-up next year. There will be a new car at some point but I can’t give away too much about that at the moment.
"We’re also relocating our workshop down to Cromwell [from Auckland] with some new facilities and a few more people. Things are growing on that front.’’
Paddon said he won’t be defending his New Zealand Rally Championship crown in 2019.
"Not in `19. We’ll do some New Zealand rallies next year but the idea is to do some other things outside of the NZRC as well.’’