HAYDEN PADDON WILL SPICE-UP THE WRC 2 PRO COMPETITION AT NEXT WEEK’S WALES RALLY GB (3 – 6 OCTOBER) BUT THE KIWI SAYS HIS FOCUS IS ON PUTTING HIMSELF BACK IN THE FRAME FOR A 2020 WRC DRIVE.
Paddon, who will be co-driven by John Kennard, returns to the FIA World Rally Championship for the first time since finishing second at last year’s Kennards Hire Rally Australia.
That return is overdue after being sidelined from August’s Neste Rally Finland, following a pre-event test crash.
Paddon, who will drive an M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 next week before stepping up to a World Rally Car for the season-closing visit to Australia in November, denied this year’s final round would be too late to close a deal for 2020.
“We need to do rallies to show what we can do and that we can still deliver. OK, maybe there’s not so much talking to be done until after Australia, but there’s two-and-a-half months between then and Sweden.
“Starting a programme in Monte Carlo is probably a bit unrealistic, but Sweden’s really the first chance for 2020. That’s what we’re working on,” he added.
Asked about facing WRC 2 Pro competition including Kalle Rovanperä, Mads Østberg and team-mate Gus Greensmith in Britain, Paddon said: “It’s completely irrelevant. I’m going to Wales and to Australia to do my own thing.
“I’ll back myself to do a good job and to be competitive, but that’s all I can do, regardless of the competition. Sure, the competition on both rallies is going to be strong, but I’m just focusing on what I can do.”
After missing out in Finland, Paddon said he had to be back in a World Rally Car this season.
“I couldn’t leave it like that,” he said. “It’ll be 12 months since I drove a World Rally Car and Australia will be a tough ask, but I’m a competitive person and I’ll do the best job I can, but it would be nice to be looking somewhere near the top five.
“There’s a bit of pressure from the results in Australia. Since 2014 we’ve finished sixth, fifth, fourth, third and second. There’s really only one place to go now!”