Hyundai Shell World Rally Team will contest this weekend's Rally Italia Sardegna, round six of the 13-event FIA World Rally Championship, with three cars as it tackles brand new territory with the ever-evolving Hyundai i20 WRC car.

New Zealand driver Hayden Paddon will be making his debut with the team as part of a seven-rally campaign behind the wheel of the #20 entry, scoring points for the Hyundai Motorsport N entry.

"It's an incredible opportunity and I'll work very hard to make the most of it," the Kiwi noted, "This will be my first time in Sardinia so I've been studying a lot of videos online to prepare for it. I know that the stages are narrow and twisty and there could be some rocks on the road so we need to keep out of trouble. Being my first event, I will focus on getting to the finish and then show progression on each throughout the season."

Paddon and regular co-driver John Kennard will join Hyundai 'stalwarts' Thierry Neuville and Juho Hanninen on the event, with the Finn a previous winner of the Italian event when it was part of the 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
"Rally Italia Sardegna is an event I know quite well, as I have been there four times before and I won it back in 2010," Hanninen confirmed, "It's a demanding rally with warm weather and a lot of grip changes. Surface can be hard in some places and sandy and quite slippery in other places. It's also very narrow which makes it very easy to make a mistake. We carefully prepared for this event and for sure we will do our best to help the team to get as much feedback as possible to develop the Hyundai i20 WRC."

While Sardinia will offer another new challenge for the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team following the rigours of Argentina, it is also an event where the i20 WRC has yet to turn a wheel. Neuville, meanwhile, brings some experience of the rally, having also competed there in the past. The Belgian put in a fighting performance at the previous round in Argentina, clinching a solid fifth place, and is determined to add to the team's learning curve with another strong finish this weekend

"Rally Italia Sardegna is quite tough as the stages are technical and quite narrow, making it very easy to make a mistake," he recalled, "There can be stones on the line that can make things even more difficult, but we had a good result here last year and we know the event quite well now having contested it three times previously.

"We will make the most of this event to continue to building the experience together with the team and of course we will look at bringing home some positives from Italy for the remainder of the season."

The Alzenau-based squad prepared with a comprehensive test in the north of Portugal in March with Neuville and Hanninen tackling similar terrain to what will be faced this weekend. Paddon, meanwhile, had his first taste of the Hyundai i20 WRC on gravel at a test last month.

"We are looking forward to putting the Hyundai i20 WRC through its paces at another new event for our young team," team principal Michel Nandan said, "This will be another demanding event for us as we understand the nuances of Rally Italia Sardegna; it is a tough event so our main aim for the three crews will be to take care and avoid making mistakes. This approach will allow us to maximise our learning from the event. We are of course hoping to score more points and to continue the development of the Hyundai i20 WRC, which is improving in all areas rally to rally. We can't forget that this event comes one year on from the official opening of our Alzenau facility - it is truly incredible to see how far we have come in the space of the past twelve months.

"It is also a pleasure to welcome Hayden and John into our squad for the first of seven events. Hayden is a very promising young driver with huge potential and we are pleased to offer him the chance to compete. I am excited to see him grow alongside the team as our debut season continues."