Hayden Paddon admits he felt vulnerable and frustrated having had his Hyundai World Rally contract pulled from underneath him at the eleventh hour back in 2018, believing he has the potential to challenge for the world title against the Korean manufacturer’s current crop of drivers.
Paddon suffered a more than turbulent 2017 campaign which was plagued by a malady of Murphy’s Law.
The season began with the unfortunate incident at Rally Monte Carlo which saw a spectator killed having been struck by an out of control Paddon.
The 33-year-old then saw his long-time co-driver John Kennard retire through injury at Rally Portugal before crashing out of the lead from the following event in Italy.
Speaking on the Ordinary Kiwi podcast, Paddon admitted 2017 was a year for the history books and felt the season had left him fuelled with a desire to prove to Hyundai his true potential.
However, the kiwi was left with a contract deal sliced in half and Paddon has since failed to return to the outfit as a full-time driver despite often proving to be the quickest amongst the team.
“Unfortunately, at [Hyundai] we didn’t get treated the same as the European drivers,” said Paddon.
“In motorsport a lot of drivers have a bad year and unfortunately halfway through that bad year the team decided to bring another driver in and they had too many contracted drivers.
“So, they ended up cutting our contract in half for the following year which technically they are not allowed to do but they did.
“So, before we were even allowed time to recover and prove it was just a bad year we had already had our leg’s cut off at our knees and were on the back foot. So very frustrating.
“The following year we put it down as a recovery year – we only had seven rallies instead of 14 so it was a matter of being consistent, fast and get good results.”
However, Paddon’s curtailed 2018 campaign began in a similarly tumultuous fashion as the previous year when he crashed while leading Rally Portugal.
The remainder of the season proved promising as the Geraldine driver strived to make his mark on the championship and secure a much anticipated full-time contract.
“The rest of the year went really well. We had two podiums and our last rally we did with Hyundai at Rally Australia we finished second.
“Again, the team were very happy with us. We even scored the most manufacturers points for the team out of the four other drivers in the second half of the year and then they offered us the same contract for 2019 which was not ideal.
“So we agreed on terms…they knew we weren’t going to talk to any other manufacturers.
“And little did we know that a man by the name of Sebastien Loeb, a nine-time world champion, decided he wanted to come back as a part-time driver and two weeks before Christmas, which is less than a month from the opening Rally, the contract which we thought of had got pulled out from under our nose.
“So, just like that at the eleventh hour, we were left with no drive. Very, very frustrating because we have a lot to prove.”
Paddon conceded winning a WRC title in the future seems bleak considering his absence from the sport, but acknowledged the passion is still there and he has become very engaged with other rally projects including his EV Rally challenger and TCR car with Hyundai New Zealand.
“No, I haven’t given up just yet. I don’t like to blow my own smoke but the drivers that are there now [at Hyundai] are all drivers that we could compete against and beat on our good days. I still believe we could have battled to be world champion.
“I still want drive and I still want to win, but I want to go forward and do it with our own new Zealand team.”
Earlier in the month, Paddon unveiled plans were afoot for a four-round return to the WRC with Hyundai New Zealand before the coronavirus-induced suspension.