PHOTO: Hayden Paddon (left) and co-driver John Kennard sign autographs before 2014 Coates Hire Rally Australia (Pic: Neil Blackbourn)
HYUNDAI Motorsport will run the same three drivers, including New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon, on all but one round of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship.
Paddon, 27, and co-driver John Kennard will skip the Rallye Monte-Carlo opening round on 22-25 January and join the other regular drivers Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo from Round 2 in Sweden.
The news effectively confirms Paddon will be back in action on 10-13 September at Rally Australia, where hundreds of countrymen turned out to support him last year.
After announcing in December Paddon would do at least nine rounds, the German-based team’s statement on Friday also means the 2011 Production World Rally Champion has doubled his schedule from 2014 and made the final transition to full-time WRC driver.
New Zealand and Australia have not had a full-time representative in the WRC since Queenslander Chris Atkinson left the Subaru World Rally Team at the end of 2008.
Paddon’s first season with Hyundai yielded sixth place at Coates Hire Rally Australia in September and a maiden stage win at Rally Spain.
He will test his Hyundai i20 WRC for a day in the week before Rally Sweden, an event he has contested as a privateer in the past.
Hyundai’s decision to have a consistent driver line-up differs from its 2014 strategy when Atkinson, Juho Hanninen of Finland and Bryan Bouffier of France also drove in selected rounds and the i20’s test program.
Hyundai said it was switching from two to three cars “in order to raise its game in the competitive WRC”.
Team Principal Michel Nandan added: “As we saw last year, having three cars on WRC events is very positive and helps us to develop our Hyundai i20 WRC more rapidly.”