Paddon behind the eight ball in WRC seat shuffle

Sebastien Ogier is odds-on to be announced as a new Toyota Gazoo Racing driver this week, which is guaranteed to turn the driver market on its head once again.

World Rally Championship fans are already in shock after World Champion Ott Tanak signed with rival team Hyundai.

Then Citroen decided it was all too hard and took their bat and ball and went home.

Ogier is expected to join M-Sport stalwart, Elfyn Evans, and young gun Kalle Rovanpera in an all-new Toyota line-up.

Elfyn Evansis expected to move from M-Sport to Toyota GAZOO Racing

It was this news that was the catalyst for Citroen’s shock departure. Perhaps the French team realised once and for all that if King Ogier couldn’t tame the troublesome C3 WRC, then perhaps nobody could.

With Ogier and Evans moving to the Finnish-based Japanese team, it leaves Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke on the WRC scrapheap, and also opens up a spot at M-Sport alongside the Finn, Teemu Suninen.

But none of this is particularly good news for Hayden Paddon, whose chances of a WRC reprieve seem to be getting slimmer by the day.

His announcement of a 2020 TCR program, and recent drivers in sprintcars and cross-karts seem to indicate that he’s perhaps moved on …. for now at least.

M-Sport’s Malcolm Wilson can probably hardly believe his good fortune though. While he would have loved to have signed Tanak or Ogier, the shuffling of the deck has left him with a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the WRC to choose from.

Craig Breen, Esapekka Lappi, Kris Meeke, Jari-Matti Latvala, Andreas Mikkelsen, Hayden Paddon, Gus Greensmith …. the list is long and talented.

In fact, it seems it will be a case of whoever has the most money wins the drive. Or will that be drives?

Ott Tanak signed with rival team Hyundai

Could the reduction in WRC teams from four to three mean that Wilson will now be able to afford to run three, or even four cars on a regular basis?

With the drivers squabbling for seats, there’s sure to be an abundance of personal sponsorship money just waiting to be spent.

Wilson must surely be thinking that Christmas has come early.

Word is that Suninen and Greensmith will have M-Sport seats (the latter thanks to dad’s big bank account), but a third or fourth car could be a strong possibility, with perhaps several drivers behind the wheel during the season.

We can only hope that one of those drivers is Hayden Paddon.

Peter Whitten

Peter has been the editor of RallySport Magazine since its inception in 1989, in both printed and online form. He is a long-time competitor, event organiser and official, as well as working in the media.

http://rallysportmag.com

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