33-year-old New Zealander Hayden Paddon has had many bad moments in his career, the accident at Rallye Monte-Carlo in 2017 where a spectator died signalled the start of a bad run of luck for the Kiwi.
Since then he has been dropped by Hyundai, had a crash on test in Finland ahead of the WRC comeback 2019, an inauspicious WRC2 start with M-Sport in Wales, and then the forest fires in Australia that destroyed the chances of running the 2019 WRC season-finale.
But Paddon had not given up, with New Zealand set to make a comeback in the WRC this season, Hayden pushed hard, securing a four-start program in a private Hyundai i20 WRC with the backing of a domestic Hyundai importer. Portugal, Sardinia, and Finland were in planning to drive up the pace ahead of the finish in New Zealand.
“Like pretty much everything with sport over here in New Zealand, we take a lead from the All Blacks with the black livery and the silver fern. We were really pleased with how it was looking and the opportunity we had.” Paddon said.
“The plan for this year was to do Portugal, Sardinia and Finland before we got to Rally New Zealand.
“We were really excited about this opportunity with Hyundai New Zealand. They’re so positive in the support and in everything they do and this was a real chance to get back and come to the home rally with plenty of seat time.”
But the COVID-19 pandemic has stopped all four rounds from being runned and the outting is paused. Now Paddon hopes for a continuation in 2021, but if possible remains to be seen.
If it was hard work this year, it will be even harder to secure money for 2021, Paddon predicts given the financial consequences of the pandemic, both in New Zealand and in the world.
“We’ll try to make it happen again next year, it’s not going to be easy. Putting together the backers we needed for this year was tough, but with the virus impacting on the global economy like it has, it’s going to be even tougher next season.” Paddon said.
“But if we’d given up, we’d never have got this far so it’s definitely a case of never say never and work towards next season.”