Hayden Paddon has admitted he has a hunger like never before as he prepares for his WRC return at next week’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal (17-20 May).
The 31-year-old was absent from Hyundai's WRC squad in Argentina, Corsica and Mexico and will rejoin the line-up for the first time since February when he finished fifth at Rally Sweden.
To help get back up to speed, in the past month Paddon tackled the New Zealand championship Rally of Otago and Rally of Whangarei. Competing in a Hyundai i20 AP4, he won both events – including a clean sweep of stage victories in both.
He explained: “While our New Zealand events have been very successful - and I feel like ‘I’m back’ – I’m also under no illusion that it’s a different kettle of fish at the elite level, and three months out of the car is a gap I have to bridge quickly.
“But we feel up to the task, well prepared and a hunger like never before – but not to prove anything to anyone! It’s to meet my expectations and goals as I know what I’m capable of and until I achieve it, there will be no let up.”
In his New Zealand appearances, Paddon felt he had improved in some of his "weak areas" such as Super Special Stages and managing tyre wear on the more abrasive tests.
"That’s put me in a good position to build from and it’s a great confidence builder," he explained. “It’s a bit crazy to think 11 weeks in New Zealand have already passed but it was the perfect reset I needed.”
After keeping up his match fitness, Paddon will be testing the Hyundai i20 WRC today [Friday] and tomorrow in Sardinia as he looks to refamiliarise himself with the car on gravel.
“I’m chomping at the bit to be back in the WRC car," he added.
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