Has Hayden Paddon Earned Another Chance In The WRC?
Hayden Paddon won the 2023 European Rally Championship this past weekend. Has the 36-year-old earned another chance in the WRC?
This past weekend Hayden Paddon became the first non-European ERC champion. Paddon hasn’t competed in the WRC since last season at Repco Rally New Zealand. In which he won the WRC2 class at the event. Before that Paddon was a mainstay for the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team. Driving with them from 2014 to 2018. Paddon has only won a single WRC event at the top level in his career. That sole win came at Rally Argentina in 2016. Parddon’s championship finishes aren’t anything to marvel at. With the 36-year-old’s highest finish being 4th in 2016. Every other season he has placed below 7th in the championship. Paddon has competed in 82 rallies throughout his career, finishing on the podium 8 times and winning 38 special stages.
Why He Could Get Another Chance
Hayden Paddon may get another chance in the WRC due to his past experience. Drivers with experience in the WRC are hard to come by. Paddon could give a team like Hyundai or M-Sport an experienced driver who may be able to score decent manufacturer points for them. Paddon may also do well in a mentor role for a driver like Pierre-Louis Loubet or Emil Lindholm.
Why Paddon Likely Won’t Get Another Chance
There’s about an 80% chance Hayden Paddon doesn’t return to the WRC in a Rally1 car next season. Why will he likely not return? Paddon has proven he is a talented driver and can compete for a championship. The issue with this is he’s done that in a R5 car. There is a huge gap between how the WRC2/R5 cars driver Rally1 cars drive. There’s no guarantee Paddon would be able to compete in a Rally1 car. Mind you that’s the same with any new driver for the class. The one difference between a new driver and Paddon is age. Paddon is 36 years old, which isn’t young in the rally world. Chances are if teams were to bring in a new driver to the top level it would be somebody like Oliver Solberg or Emil Lindholm. Somebody who is a bit younger and can spend more time learning and getting used to the car. Pardon’s experience at WRC events may be the only benefit in selecting him over Solberg or another young driver.
What About WRC2?
As previously mentioned Paddon has shown he can compete in WRC2 cars. He could be beneficial for a manufacturer team to add to their WRC roster to help mentor younger drivers. Paddon has experienced quite a bit in his Rally career. Meaning he is extremely knowledgeable. He could pass some of that knowledge along to the likes of Emil Lindholm or Adrien Fourmaux. There’s a higher chance of Paddon getting a WRC2 drive if he wants it as opposed to a Rally1 drive.