Hayden Paddon's long-time co-driver John Kennard has made the decision to away from his current role earlier than initially planned due to his ongoing hip injury and will be replaced by Sebastian Marshall.

Marshall stepped in as Kennard's temporary replacement for Rally de Portugal after the Kiwi was ruled out by a hip injury sustained at Rally Argentina.

Kennard had hoped to return for to action before handing over full-time co-driver duties to Marshall after Rally Finland in July as previously planned.

But Kennard's hip injury has revised the strategy with the 58-year-old co-driver stepping aside, making the Paddon-Marshall partnership permanent from Rally d'Italia Sardegna (8-11 June) onwards.

"Unfortunately my hip's condition still won't allow me to take on the rough gravel of Sardinia and while I'd dearly love to get back in the car to finish my WRC career with Hayden in Poland and Finland, it really wouldn't make any sense," Kennard conceded. "We've had a terrible start to the year, so it's most important to grab some positivity and move forward in the last half of the season.

"We've already seen a spark of that with Hayden and Seb in Portugal, so I'm sure by staying together they can keep it going and they'll be back on the podium very soon, where I'll be with them in spirit."

Paddon, who was forced to retire from Rally de Portugal with Marshall earlier this month, has thanked Kennard for making the tough decision to step down and says he'll act as a third member of the team for the rest of 2017.

"It's not an easy decision," Paddon said. "But it's something we all feel is best for the future and something that John is very supportive of and recommends himself.

"As we've said all along, even though he won't be in the car, John continues to play an important role in our World Rally Championship programme. John will be at all WRC events this year, supporting us on the gravel rallies and helping us as our gravel crew on the tarmac rallies."

Paddon claimed his maiden WRC win in Argentina last year with Kennard as his co-driver but has suffered a difficult start to 2017 for Hyundai.

The New Zealander withdrew from the season-opener at Rallye Monte-Carlo after being involved in an accident on the opening stage which saw a spectator killed, while his best result has been fifth place in Mexico.



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