Hayden Paddon's WRC future still unclear
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It has been over a month since the announcement that Kiwi rally driver Hayden Paddon had been dropped from the factory Hyundai team for Rally Spain.
That decision raised serious speculation about the 30-year-old's future despite having a contract with the Korean manufacturer for 2018.
But for a brief statement about this decision not deterring him from his objective of becoming a world rally champion, Paddon has remained tight-lipped over where his immediate future lies.
Since that announcement Hyundai has signed Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen and it has emerged that they have also offered a contract to four-time world champion and current championship leader Sebastien Ogier for 2018.
While it is believed the offer is more to drive the Frenchman's asking price up from rival teams it could potentially see five leading drivers all under contract with Hyundai next year.
There has been significant speculation suggesting Paddon and Spaniard Dani Sordo will share a car for the 2018 season even if Ogier doesn't join the mix - Paddon contesting the gravel events and Sordo the tarmac rallies.
But respected rally commentator Colin Clark believes Paddon, should he remain with Hyundai next year, will contest a full round of the championship with Hyundai New Zealand helping provide the necessary funding to get a fourth car to the events where Sordo is also likely to run.
That option looks the more likely.
Why? Paddon has long considered 2018 to be the first year where he has enough experience to make a serious bid for the championship crown. He wouldn't be able to do that sharing a drive with Sordo. His relationship with Hyundai New Zealand is strong - even if it isn't the best with the World Rally Team - and it would be Hyundai New Zealand's best interest to see him remain with their brand. Bankrolling him into a handful of events might still be significantly better than seeing him potentially switch manufacturers and provide a free leg-up to rival brands back Down Under.
The WRC silly season is in full swing at present waiting for the first major domino to fall. It would appear that could happen soon with both M-Sport Ford drivers linked elsewhere. Ogier has long been linked to a move back to Citroen. It would seem to make more sense than Ogier joining his biggest title rivals of the past three years in Thierry Neuville and Mikkelsen at the same team. Ott Tanak has been linked to Toyota and there is strong speculation that an announcement is due any day.
That would leave some spaces open at M-Sport and would see some current drivers at Citroen and Toyota looking for a new team.