New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon will drive a factory Hyundai i20 WRC on seven rounds of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship.
The 26-year-old’s programme will begin at Rally Italia Sardegna in June. He will also contest the rounds in Poland, Finland, Australia and Britain along with two more rounds from Germany, France and Spain.
The Korean manufacturer will enter Paddon and co-driver John Kennard in a second team called Hyundai Motorsport N, which will be registered to score points in the manufacturers’ championship.
Paddon, who won the PWRC world title in 2011, made his World Rally Car debut in October last year when he drove a Ford Fiesta RS for the Qatar M-Sport squad at Rally de Espana. He finished eighth.
“It is an incredible opportunity to be part of the team in these very exciting times,” said Paddon, pictured with Hyundai Motorsport president Gyoo-Heon Choi. “It’s a chance that we are ready for and are going to work very hard to make the most of to help the team continue to develop towards 2015.
“Same as the team, I am here to learn my way through WRC and to succeed in the end. It is also a fantastic opportunity for me to work and learn alongside some very experienced people within the team and, of course, the other drivers,” he added.
Paddon joins lead driver Thierry Neuville, Dani Sordo, Juho Hanninen and Chris Atkinson in the Hyundai set-up.
He moved to Europe from New Zealand and lives in Frankfurt, close to Hyundai Motorsport’s Alzenau base in Germany. He will test the i20 WRC for the first time in April but before then he will attend next week’s Rally Mexico independently for the recce.
Team principal Michel Nandan said Hyundai wanted to support the champions of the future.
“For this reason we decided to engage one more car at selected WRC events under the entry Hyundai Motorsport N. Hayden is one of the very talented drivers on the WRC scene at the moment and we will support him as much as we can to reach the highest level possible,” he said.
Coming soon: Hayden Paddon speaks further about his dream drive.