Hayden Paddon gets M-Sport seat for Rally Finland
Hayden Paddon will return to the World Rally Championship field after agreeing a deal with M-Sport to race at next month's Rally Finland event.
The New Zealander missed out on a Hyundai seat to Craig Breen for the 2019 season and has been left to watch from the sidelines, but this week concluded a deal to drive for the Ford-backed squad.
"It has been really hard sitting at home watching the WRC unfold this year, especially as I know we can deliver at a high level," he said.
"Obviously I’m very excited to be back in the WRC and I’m excited to be working with M-Sport – it seems we are all on the same page, even in these early stages, which is a fantastic place to be."
Paddon made his World Rally Car debut in an M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC at the 2013 RallyRACC Rally de Espãna.
Since missing out on the seat, he has kept busy with a programme of Asia Pacific and New Zealand Rally Championship events – the most impressive of which was a seven-minute win on the Rally of South Canterbury last month.
"I have to say a huge thanks to the team at Hyundai New Zealand who continue to support me fully," added Paddon. "For them to have allowed us to chase this opportunity, it speaks volumes of how much they support my career and aspirations. It is truly humbling."
He will be joined by co-driver John Kennard for Finland where he hopes to achieve a top-five finish despite the challenge of learning a new car.
"We will be giving the rally 110 per cent. Obviously being out of WRC competition for eight months puts us a little on the back foot, but both John and I are confident we can hop in, prepare well and be near the front. A top five would be the minimum expectation from myself but as always, I will be pushing for more.
"The ultimate goal is to be back in the WRC more regularly in 2020. I’m in a good phase at the moment. I still have a lot I know I can achieve in the WRC, we just need that opportunity."