Hayden Paddon says he is remaining realistic about his chances of returning to the World Rally Championship this year.
The Kiwi has been out of the championship since 2018, following a shaky period with the works Hyundai team.
Since then, Paddon has said he desires to return to the top level of world rallying and had plotted a return with a Hyundai team to race at four WRC events last season. The car would have sported a Kiwi-inspired livery and run at WRC’s return to New Zealand.
However, with Covid-19 disrupting the season, Paddon set those plans aside on the backburner.
In an interview with Autosport, Paddon says he still hopes he will be back in the WRC one day. But he is keeping his hopes in check, believing any chance of returning over the next 12 months is unlikely.
“To be honest, I would love to be back in the World Rally Championship – I would give anything to be back in the World Rally Championship – but I am also realistic,” Paddon said.
“We have been on the sidelines for a while now, and several other young drivers are coming through [the ranks].
“Negotiations with teams have somewhat stalled for now. The start of the season is always the busiest for teams.
“It’s only around mid-season that they start to think about the following year.”
From 2022, WRC teams will begin to use Rally1 cars, which have a 100kW plug-in hybrid system.
Hybrid technology is still very new to everyone. However, Paddon has recently unveiled a working, full-electric Kona that has already had several demonstrations.
The 33-year-old’s knowledge and experience with the technology could help him chalk out a path back into WRC.
“I would be interested in a test role and helping a team to develop their new hybrid systems,” Paddon added. “I feel we are building our knowledge base quite well in that area at the moment.
“I feel I could deliver [results] – but I’m not holding my breath.
“I still want to be involved, whether that is as a Rally1 driver, Rally2 driver or even just a test driver. I feel I still have a lot to offer.”
Paddon will be competing in this year’s New Zealand Rally Championship, which begins with the Otago Rally on April 16-18.
Meanwhile, the WRC has its third round of the season in Croatia over April 22-25.