Hayden Paddon is to compete in the top flight of the World Rally Championship for the first time in Spain after confirming a deal to join the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team for the event.

The New Zealander will run in full factory colours in next month's event in a move the 26-year-old has been working towards for some time.

"To say I'm excited is an understatement, but I am also focused on ensuring that we make the most of this opportunity," he admitted. "I don't want to just be in a WRC car for a one off event, this is what I want to make my career out of.

"After some discussions, we were offered this great opportunity and it's amazing to finally get our chance in a WRC car. While it has been a lot of hard work over the past few seasons to get to this point, we are conscious that the level of hard work will in fact increase even further as this is very much our chance to try and showcase what we can do to ultimately move further forward in the sport and towards 2014."

Related Articles

Paddon admitted that his initial aim was to bring home a finish from his outing in the Fiesta, with his focus also to try and set top five stage times by the end of the weekend.

Paddon and his Blenheim-based, long-term co-driver John Kennard aren't strangers to the Spanish event which mixes two days of tarmac with a day of gravel stages.

Paddon's keeping the goals relatively straightforward: first, he aims to finish the rally in order to gain experience. In addition, he aims to secure some top five stage times, mixing it up with some of the best drivers in the world, S?bastien Ogier, Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala as well as fellow Qatar M-Sport drivers Mads ?stberg and Thierry Neuville.

Paddon will have the benefit of a small test with M-Sport prior to the 24 to 27 October event, trying the 300 hp, 1.6-litre turbo-charged Fiesta on both gravel and tarmac.

"Naturally I want to be competitive and will be giving it our utmost to set some good stage times," he said. "However it is also important to make sure we finish the rally to gain as much experience behind the wheel of a WRC car for the first time.

"Ultimately we are trying to market ourselves for 2014 and this amazing opportunity to compete in a Fiesta RS WRC with such a respected team as UK-based M-Sport gives us that chance.

"I cannot thank everyone in New Zealand enough, from our partners and shareholders, who are behind me all the way, to my family, friends and fellow competitors. Everyone has had such a big part to play and now we have our chance."

M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson meanwhile said he was delighted to bring Paddon in to the team.

"I am very pleased to welcome Hayden into the Qatar M-Sport team for Rally de Espa?a," he said. "His speed in Australia was impressive, and this is his opportunity to prove what he can do behind the wheel of a world rally car. He is in the best possible place to learn with Thierry [Neuville], Mads [?stberg] and Evgeny [Novikov] all there to offer advice and experience on how to tackle a world rally car debut.

"There is no doubt that Hayden is an extremely fast driver, and I am looking forward to seeing how he progresses through the weekend. Needless to say, I am delighted that we have been able to offer him this opportunity."