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Motorsport: Hayden Paddon hits out at Hyundai after World Rally Championship return snub

Kiwi driver Hayden Paddon has blasted Hyundai’s World Rally Championship racing team and denied reports he turned down a one-race comeback for the Rally of Finland. Paddon took to Facebook on Wednesday to vent his frustration after Hyundai confirmed Ireland’s former Citroen team driver Craig Breen for the August event.

The 32-year-old Paddon was dropped by Hyundai for the 2019 World Rally Championship (WRC) season after five seasons’ service.

Paddon  – who said he had “given my life” for Hyundai – was keen for a one-rally drive or to help with testing, but the Hyundai team announced this week that Breen had got the nod.

The 2016 Rally of Argentina winner had no issue with Breen and wished him all the best, but said he wanted to set the record straight.

“I will point out all the talk that we turned down the offer of a [one-rally] drive with Hyundai is not correct and was blown out of proportion from media speculation,” Paddon wrote on Facebook.
“Originally there was talk of this when we first got news of no seat for 2019 last December, and at the time emotion was raw after being left high and dry. However, nothing was formally discussed.

“Since February we have actively been in communication to be involved with the team in any role – testing, – 1-off rallies [Finland]…..anything.

“My passion is still very high for WRC and I feel I’m at my prime at present. I know the car well and was prepared to jump straight in and do a good job for the team.”

Paddon – originally from Geraldine but now based in Central Otago – said he hoped people could understand why “we are very upset”.

“I have given my life to this brand in everything I do. Our NZ business, our NZ Hyundai partnership, purchase of a TCR car, everything we possibly could do!

“And yet we were not even spoken to about this event despite us offering our services several times. Since we did our last rally in Australia, we have had very little communication from them – no acknowledgment of our time with them, no formal thank you, no heads up on the future.”

Paddon said he appreciated the “unconditional support from Hyundai NZ”, who “have had my back” throughout.

“They fully support all our comments.

“Many people say we need to cut our ties – well, think of it this way, do you cut your ties for a couple of years in the WRC vs a potential lifetime partnership in this part of the world? It’s never as straightforward as most people think.”

He stressed his comments were “nothing against” Breen.

“I have nothing but respect for him and it’s only natural you take what opportunities you can.”

Paddon’s Finnish rally snub surprised Autosport.com columnist David Evans.

“Few make as strong a case for the third i20 as Breen,” Evans wrote. “Actually, just two people did: Hayden Paddon and Mads Ostberg.

“My money was on Paddon because of his familiarity with the team and the machine as much as his speed and familiarity with Finland.”

Evans said there had been talks in late 2018 about a one-off deal for Paddon in Finland, but “the deal never came to fruition and certainly Paddon says it didn’t reach a point where he turned a formal offer from his former employers”.

Breen, 29, was dropped by Citroen at the end of the 2018 season.

He will step into the Hyundai driver’s seat to replace regulars Sebastien Loeb – who was brought in for Paddon – and Dani Sordo in Finland, who are taking a longer summer break.

“I am chuffed to be given this chance to join Hyundai Motorsport for Rally Finland, and to get back in a World Rally Car,” Breen said on Autosport.com

“It’s been a long and patient wait, having to watch everyone else drive this year.

Paul Nagle will be his co-driver.

Source: Stuff, NZ