Hayden Paddon will return to the M-Sport Ford team for two more World Rally Championship appearances later in the 2019 season.
The former Hyundai driver will compete in a Ford Fiesta R5 at next month's Rally GB before stepping up to a Fiesta WRC for the season-closing Rally Australia.
Paddon’s deal was confirmed by M-Sport Ford World Rally Team on Friday morning and comes after he was forced out of Rally Finland by a pre-event testing accident.
Since that July accident, the Kiwi has been working with M-Sport and his own partners to find a way back into the Fiesta WRC.
Paddon said: “After the disappointment of Finland there was no way we could let that be the end of it and, together with M-Sport, we have worked hard to find some solutions.
“I really can’t thank everyone enough for their continued help and support; and a special thanks to Hyundai New Zealand who have again allowed this opportunity to happen.”
While Paddon’s looking forward to being back in Wales, it’s the Coffs Harbour finale that’s really got his attention.
“I’m really looking forward to driving M-Sport’s new R5 on an event we are familiar with,” said Paddon, who drove a Hyundai i20 R5 at the recent Eureka Rush Rally in Australia. “It’s good to get more seat time and I’ll aim to showcase the capabilities of the car, but getting back to the World Rally Car will be the real highlight. I can’t wait.”
Paddon has a strong record down under, finishing in the top six every time he’s started the event in a World Rally Car, with two of those results on the podium and the runners-up spot last season.
Overlooked by his former employer Hyundai in favour of Craig Breen in Finland, Paddon says his priority is to relax and deliver results in Wales and New South Wales.
“We’re not treating these rallies as a last chance,” he said. “We want to relax and enjoy the whole experience which will allow the results to come naturally. These are both rallies we know well and I feel I’m at a good level.
"There’s no reason we can’t deliver some strong results, but it’s important we don’t go chasing them – just let them come naturally.”
The size of the reaction to Paddon’s heartbreaking – and blameless – exit from Finland surprised many in the service park and only served to double determination at M-Sport to being the popular New Zealander back.
M-Sport team principal Richard Millener said: “After what happened in the lead-up to Finland, it was clear that a lot of the fans were desperate to see Hayden back behind the wheel.
"We gave him some thoughts and advice on what was needed to compete with us again, and within three weeks, he was pretty much there!
“The WRC 2 Pro series is extremely competitive at the moment so it’s great to add another top-line driver into the mix. With Hayden’s experience of all different kinds of cars we’re sure he’ll be able to show the capabilities of the new Fiesta R5.
“As for Rally Australia I think it’s clear what he aims to do there, and it will be great to see him back battling the WRC regulars. He and John [Kennard, co-driver] certainly have the potential to deliver two really strong performances and I’m one of many who are excited to see what they can do.”
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