Paddon to split time between WRC and NZ in 2018
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Rally star Hayden Paddon is set to contest only half the events on the WRC calendar next year but will make up a full program by competing more back home in New Zealand in 2018.
The Hyundai factory driver finds himself in essentially a car-sharing position with veteran Spaniard Dani Sordo with the team running championship runner-up Thierry Neuville and Norway's Andreas Mikkelsen fulltime.
Paddon was angry at the team's decision to add Mikkelsen late in the season, which meant the team had more drivers than cars.
With a contract that states a fulltime WRC drive Paddon had an opportunity to challenge the Korean manufacturer in court or pursue an opportunity to drive at a rival team but the 30-year-old felt that option was too risky.
"The contract is pretty clear but at the same time you don't want to end up with nothing," Paddon told The Herald. "You do have to tread a bit carefully and at the end of the day respect the decision of the bosses and use it as fire to come back and prove them wrong and get things back on track again."
Paddon is back home for Christmas but will head back to Europe in early January although he won't compete at the season opening Monte Carlo Rally in late January and will instead prepare for the second event.
"Sweden is our first rally," Paddon said. "Beyond that we know we are not doing all the rallies. It might be seven or eight rallies that we are doing.
"It might be a bit of a moving target so we just have to focus on each and every rally that we do. Do the best job that we can.
"We will try and do the recce at Monte and some of the other events we aren't doing but also we don't want to be sitting around doing a part program."
Seat time and competition are crucial to form at the elite level and Paddon knows a schedule with half as many events as his rivals will put him at a huge disadvantage.
So the plan will be to add extra events to his calendar and make use of the obvious opportunities in New Zealand.
"Seven or eight rallies, if that's what it is, plus some testing is not enough mileage to stay competitive with the guys at the front," he said.
"We have a car and team here in New Zealand and we will make the most of that opportunity and do as many rallies as we can here.
"Ultimately at the end of the year we will still be doing just as much mileage as the others to keep us fresh and in that competitive fight."
There is only one date clash when you marry up the WRC calendar with the New Zealand Rally Championship – that is Rally Germany and Rally Coromandel clashing in mid-August. But Rally Germany is a tarmac event and it is almost certain that Hyundai would prefer Sordo in the third car for that event.
That means it is possible that Paddon could do just about the whole domestic season next year.
"First and foremost we have to sit down with Hyundai New Zealand and discuss the plan there but they are 110% behind us no matter what we are doing in WRC," Paddon explained.
"For sure there will be a good program here in New Zealand. We will do as many rallies as we can here where it fits with the calendar because it is giving me miles and keeping me in the car. The car might be different but competition is competition and that is important.
"It is looking like at the moment we will be able to do the majority of the championship – not all of the rallies but most of them. Then there could be the opportunity to put someone else in the car for one or two events."