Friday | 19 Jul 2019

Guest column: Hayden Paddon

There was no point sitting crying in a corner. When news came through that Craig Breen would be driving for Hyundai Motorsport at Neste Rally Finland I knew I had to do something for myself.

I picked up the telephone to M-Sport, made some enquiries, made some more calls to our amazing investors and then got on a plane. To France. I’m competing in the TitansRX series this year, which is great, but having to travel from home to the first round when I was in the middle of working on a WRC deal made the timing a bit tight.

When I stepped off the plane in Europe, I switched on the phone and couldn’t believe how much things had progressed in 24 hours. The bones of the deal were pretty much there for us to come back to WRC for the first time since finishing second in Australia in November.

I have to say a huge thank you to Malcolm Wilson, Rich Millener and the guys at M-Sport. They really stretched their legs to make this happen before the deadline for entries. And, of course, I must thank those investors, all 17 of them, who dug deep to bring this home.

The thing that seems to have surprised folk the most is the support we’ve had from Hyundai New Zealand, considering we’re driving a Ford Fiesta. That’s the mentality back home. Hyundai NZ’s a wholly Kiwi company but when general manager Andy Sinclair told me I had their complete backing as a fellow New Zealander, it was pretty humbling.

There are a couple of things I want to say. The first is how disappointed I am for Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin that they won’t be in Finland. John Kennard and I have always got on really well with those guys and were looking forward to working with them as team-mates.

Elfyn’s finished second in Finland before, he’s somebody who would have gone there with a real shot at winning. I wish him all the best for a quick recovery.

And I want to say good luck to Craig. He’s a great guy and a real competitor. He and I are in a similar situation and we’re both looking to turn it around for next season.

Paddon made his World Rally Car debut in a Fiesta in 2013

I’m not interested in anything that’s gone on in the past, that’s history, water under the bridge. I’m only looking forward. And I’m really looking forward to getting back to Jyväskylä.

I’m flying to the UK this weekend and will be with M-Sport Ford at the factory in Cumbria early next week. I haven’t been there for a while, but M-Sport’s a team I’ve always had happy memories of. I made my World Rally Car debut in a Fiesta in Spain in 2013. You don’t forget those moments.

I know a good few of the guys are still there from that event, so I’m looking forward to saying hello and meeting some new faces – just so long as nobody mentions the cricket...

I’ll also get the chance to have a good look around the car, some of the base set-up data and how to work on it. After that it’s out to Finland for the test, recce and event.

There’s no denying there’s pressure. I have this chance and I want to make the absolute best of it. But I’m backing myself. I love Finland, I love those roads and jumps and I can’t wait to get out there and show the WRC what it’s been missing!


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