Paddon and co-driver John Kennard have gained entry into the FIA European Rally Championship, driving a Hyundai i20 N Rally 2 car.
The ERC season starts in Fafe, Portugal, on March 11 and promises highly popular rallies and massive competition for Paddon and Kennard as the pair start their 18th season of competition together.
They will contest seven of the eight ERC rounds, visiting Portugal, Poland, Latvia, Sweden, Italy, Czech Republic and Hungary, while missing the Canary Island event in early May.
This year’s ERC campaign marks Paddon’s first full championship season in Europe since 2017.
The ERC was first run in 1953 and, during its 70-year history, the championship title has never been won by a non-European.
Previous champions include Walter Rohl, Miki Biasion, Piero Liatti and Andreas Mikkelsen, so Paddon appreciates the intensity of the competition he will face.
Paddon has also confirmed a new partnership with the BRC Racing Team, based in Cherasco, in northern Italy.
His season will still include a full New Zealand campaign and an expanded programme with the Hyundai Kona EV rally car to cover about 20 events in 40 weeks.
“Following the European events we contested in a Hyundai Rally2 car last year, there was plenty to consider about the events and budgets,” Paddon said.
“This year we have made the decision to focus on ERC for a couple of key reasons.
“Firstly, the budget is more achievable while still competing in a top FIA championship. Secondly, from a personal perspective, fighting for rally wins rather than class wins is more appealing.
“I’m at a different point of my career now, and ERC looks like an enjoyable campaign to keep Hyundai NZ Rally and PRG in Europe while competing with a serious chance of winning rallies.
“Also, when considering the logistics of competing on the other side of the world, we see the value of developing a close relationship with a highly-regarded European team like BRC Racing Team, while still using some of our own personnel too.”
BRC Racing Team principal Gabriele Rizzo said the team was “honoured” to link with Paddon and Hyundai New Zealand.
“It’s a unique opportunity to expand our connections within the Hyundai world and return to the challenge of contesting the FIA ERC as part of our wider motorsport activities.
“Our team are looking forward to the first rally in Fafe. We will face the season with our usual professionalism and attention to detail, with the aim of showing solid results at each rally.”
Paddon will compete in several New Zealand Rally Championship events, contesting a couple of hillclimbs and doing demos in his Hyundai i20 AP4+ car, as well as the ongoing development, demos and hillclimb competition with the Hyundai Kona EV car.
Following the Portuguese ERC event, Paddon flies home to contest the New Zealand hillclimb championship near Lawrence in the Hyundai AP4+ on March 18-19.
The following weekend, Paddon and the Hyundai Kona EV car take part in the Adelaide Motorsport Festival, highlighting the latest electric and hybrid vehicles.
By: Staff reporter