Haydon Paddon has ruled himself out of a WRC drive in 2019 following Hyundai’s decision to sign nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb.
The New Zealand driver hoped to share the third car in the Hyundai Shell Mobis squad with Dani Sordo, as he did in 2018, but the Korean manufacturer’s swoop for the 44-year-old Frenchman changed the picture.
“Unfortunately there will be no WRC for us in 2019 as there are no opportunities. After the signing of Sébastien Loeb we've been left high and dry - a seat/position which was planned we had after several months of discussions,” said Paddon.
“Naturally we are very disappointed but at the same time understand that can be the reality of professional sport. We can be proud of what we achieved and hold our head high.”
A Hyundai seat was Paddon’s only realistic option for 2019 with M-Sport Ford looking increasingly likely to retain Elfyn Evans alongside Teemu Suninen.
Paddon spent five seasons with Hyundai, claiming his maiden WRC win in Argentina in 2016. He ended his time with the team by finishing second at last month’s Kennards Hire Rally Australia, but pledged he would remain in the sport.
“Rallying is in my blood and it’s just a matter to regroup and plan the next steps. We have some nice ideas/projects that we will try and put in place to take on the world with our own Kiwi team. I’m still competitive, I’m still motivated, I still want to drive and I still want to win,” he said.
“We were always told it was impossible for a Kiwi to be in the WRC. Not only did we get there, to win a rally and have eight podiums is some nice success that we can reflect on and was not possible without the belief and help of so many people in NZ.
“Of course I feel like we could have achieved more but you can’t spend life reflecting on the ‘what ifs’,” Paddon added.
Paddon won this season’s New Zealand championship in an i20 AP4 developed by his own team and an expansion of that programme would now appear his most likely option.