Hayden Paddon and John Kennard will take to the wheel of the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC at next month’s Neste Rally Finland. Making a welcome return to the FIA World Rally Championship, the New Zealanders will pilot a third M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Fiesta and will be eligible to score manufacturer points for the Cumbrian squad.
Paddon made his first appearance behind the wheel of a world rally car when contesting RallyRACC Catalunya with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC in 2013, and went on to become one of the sport’s most popular and celebrated drivers.
A regular on the world stage, he secured his first podium in 2015 and a maiden victory soon followed with an unforgettable performance at the 2016 edition of Rally Argentina.
Proficient on all surfaces, the Kiwi has eight top-three finishes to his name and will be looking to deliver another strong performance when he returns to the Fiesta for his 80th appearance on the world stage.
Thanks to his backers in New Zealand, Paddon will become the 15th driver to take to the wheel of the top-specification Fiesta at rallying’s highest level – the car which has delivered five FIA World Rally Championships, nine victories and 31 podiums over the past two and a half years.
This will also be Paddon’s tenth appearance at the Finnish fixture, and he and Kennard will complete a one-day test in preparation – familiarising themselves with the award-winning Fiesta and reacquainting themselves with the M-Sport family.
Hayden Paddon said:
“Both John and I are very excited to be back – especially as it has been so hard to watch from the side-lines. M-Sport have been so welcoming even in the short period since this deal has been put together which gives me great confidence that we will be able to work together to achieve a great result on one of my favourite events on the calendar.
“Huge thanks also to our long-term partner Hyundai NZ who have allowed us to take the opportunity and encouraged us. We are lucky to have the support that we do from New Zealand and abroad.”
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“It’s great to see Hayden back in the FIA World Rally Championship, and we’re all excited to see what he can do behind the wheel of the Fiesta. He’s a proven rally winner, and it’s great for us to have a driver of his calibre as we set our sights on another strong performance.
“The deal came together pretty quick, so it’s great that we were able to do something at short notice. Hayden is extremely determined and has the potential to deliver a really exciting performance. Like every rally fan, I’m looking forward to seeing him and John back in the championship!”