Monday, Oct 15 06:00pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Hayden Paddon set to join M-Sport World Rally Team?

Hayden Paddon looks set to join the M-Sport World Rally Team in next year’s FIA World Rally Championship.


Paddon is off contract with Hyundai Motorsport at the end of this year and is currently negotiating his place for 2019.


Paddon was linked to a new deal with M-Sport during Rally Wales GB and since then the rumour mill has been running hot.


Speaking with at last weekend’s Raglan Rally of the Coast, Paddon affirmed his belief he’ll be driving in the World Rally Championship next year. However, he wouldn’t say in what capacity.


“It’s positive,” he said.


“We’ll be there driving in some shape or form, but we’ll just have to see how these negotiations over the next few weeks go.


“Hopefully it shouldn’t take too long to sort out and once it is it’ll be nice to then crack on and get on with things again.


“I find it quite amusing sitting at home reading the rumours and always wondering where’s that come from.


“I think there’s every single version of possibility that’s been rumoured, so it’s good.”


When asked whether he’d be staying with Hyundai next year Paddon said: “We’re not sure yet. We’ve got to go through the processes, it’s too early to say at the moment.


“We need to see what program we can put together if it’s a full program or a partial program.


“Obviously first and foremost our focus is to do something with Hyundai, that’s my personal priority from a brand loyalty side.


“Loyalty is very important to me, but there’s so many other aspects to it all as well. We leave that to our managers and they can do the talking, I’ll just focus on my job. Rally Australia is what I’ve got to focus on now.”


Following confirmation current M-Sport driver Sebastien Ogier will re-join Citroën in 2019, sources out of Europe have indicated to that Craig Breen will leave Citroën to join M-Sport, in effect to make way for Ogier in a driver swap of sorts.


It is understood Breen and Paddon will complete the M-Sport lineup alongside Finnish driver Teemu Suninen. An announcement on Breen’s move to M-Sport is expected to be made soon.


It is expected current Toyota driver Esapekka Lappi will join Citroën alongside Ogier. Whether Citroën will run a third car for Mads Ostberg or another driver is yet to be confirmed.


Current M-Sport driver Elfyn Evans looks like the biggest loser in the silly season shakedown. He is out of contract at the end of this year and at this stage seems likely to be out of a full-time drive.


Paddon said he wants to stay with Hyundai, however, he is keen is to find a full season campaign. Initial suggestions are Paddon will join M-Sport on a one-year deal. He would remain on contract with Hyundai and effectively be on loan to M-Sport.


It’s understood that Ford’s limited manufacturer involvement with M-Sport means that Paddon can still retain his role as a Hyundai driver and ambassador in New Zealand.


Current Hyundai drivers Andreas Mikkelsen and Thierry Neuville will race for the South Korean manufacturer in 2019, with Paddon a possible returnee in 2020 on a full-time basis.


Additional sources have indicated Paddon has a full-time drive on offer for the 2019 season.


Paddon confirmed last weekend he wouldn’t be contesting a full campaign of the New Zealand Rally Championship next year, which could add weight to claims of a full-time drive in 2019.


This year Paddon supplemented a part-time campaign in the World Rally Championship with a five-round New Zealand Rally Championship title domination to keep him match fit.


Paddon said his domestic plans hinge on what World Rally Championship package comes together.


“We need to wait and see what WRC program we put together first and how that calendar works,” he said of his limited New Zealand schedule.


“I’d like to maybe do a couple of events that I enjoy. Otago is a given if it works with the calendar, that’s my favourite event in the world.”


Paddon’s desire to contest Rally Otago (14–15 April) is a high possibility with the event placed squarely between Rally France (28–31 March) and Rally Argentina (25–28 April) in next year’s proposed World Rally Championship calendar.


Breen confirmed in an interview with Autosport recently that he’d have a works drive next season, but wouldn’t say whether he’d be staying with Citroën.


“Everything is going in a good direction for the minute,” Breen said of his manufacturer discussions.


“I'm looking for every option we can. It's looking good that I'll have a car to drive – a factory car – in the championship next season.”


Autosport reported Breen was in talks with all four manufacturers, Citroën, Ford, Hyundai and Toyota, but understands that he will join M-Sport.


Last month it was confirmed Ogier would return to Citroën next year where he began his illustrious World Rally Championship career.


Reports out of Europe indicated Ford’s support for M-Sport and Ogier was limited, which left the highly paid Frenchman wanting out of the organisation. That limited factory support could aid in Paddon’s possible one-year deal.


Autosport have reported Ogier will have a two-year contract with Citroën with an option to extend for a third year. Ogier will see out the remainder of this World Rally Championship career with the French manufacturer.


Speculated 2019 FIA World Rally Championship Entry List:


Team Car Driver
Citroën World Rally Team Citroën C3 WRC Sébastien Ogier1
    Esapekka Lappi*
M-Sport World Rally Team Ford Fiesta WRC Teemu Suninen1
    Hayden Paddon*
    Craig Breen*
Hyundai Motorsport Huyunda i20 Coupe WRC Andreas Mikkelsen1
    Thierry Neuville1
    Dani Sordo2
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota Yaris WRC Ott Tänak1
    Kris Meeke*
    Jari-Matti Latvala*


1confirmed by team

2possible part-time driver

*speculated by press, to be confirmed

2019 FIA World Rally Championship Calendar: 

Round Rally Date
1 Monte-Carlo 24–27 January
2 Sweden 14–17 February
3 Mexico  7–10 March
4 France 28–31 March
5 Argentina 25–28 April
6 Chile1 9–12 May
7 Portugal 30 May–2 June
8 Italy  13–16 June
9 Finland  1–4 August
10 Germany* 22–25 August
11 Turkey 12–15 September
12 Great Britain* 3–6 October
13 Spain* 24–27 October
14 Austalia* 14–17 November


1New for 2019

*Date subject to change