Hayden Paddon has confirmed a programme of 2019 events designed at keeping him in line for a World Rally Championship return as soon as possible.
Paddon missed out on a Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC seat this season after Sebastien Loeb signed to drive for the manufacturer.
The Kiwi driver was offered a programme with Hyundai but it proved too limited and he went on to secure a move into the all-new Global Rallycross Europe.
Driving a Hyundai i20 AP4+ developed and built by his own Hyundai NZ team, Paddon will contest three rounds of his home series, starting with next month’s Otago Rally.
That i20 rally car will be converted to an 800bhp hillclimb specification for the Ashley Forest Rallysprint in September, and Paddon is also eyeing a potential RallyLegend outing in San Marino in the autumn.
“Losing the [Hyundai WRC] seat was one of the hardest moments of my career and there’s no doubt when I came home to New Zealand after Rally Australia, I was a bit disgruntled with the whole thing,” said Paddon.
“But I can’t tell you how much I want to be back in that [WRC] car now.
“The fightback started the day after [Rally] Australia and I simply won’t give up on getting back to the WRC – that’s where I want to be and I know I can still do the business there.
“With the development work we’ve got going on at home, I’m driving a rally car two or three days a week now.
“I’m working harder on the fitness side than ever and I’m ready to hop on a plane tomorrow.
“I’ve got to be honest, I never thought I’d miss driving in the World Rally Championship as much as I do.”
Paddon has also signed an extension to his current contract with Hyundai NZ and the manufacturer remains firmly behind the 2016 Rally Argentina winner.
Hyundai New Zealand general manager Andy Sinclair said: “Hayden is an exceptional individual with business nous and sporting prowess.
“He is talented and driven and has a long future in motorsport ahead of him.
“Our commitment to Hayden and his team is unquestionable and we are thoroughly excited about the busy year ahead and our collective aspirations.”
Paddon enters this year off the back of one of his strongest campaigns in the WRC by taking a top-five result on all but one of the 2018 rounds he competed in as part of his limited programme.
Paddon beat his Hyundai team-mates on three of the four events he competed on with the factory team in the second half of last year.
Despite starting six less rallies than team-mate and 2019 Hyundai driver Andreas Mikkelsen, Paddon finished only 11 points adrift of the Norwegian in the ’18 standings.