New Zealand driver Hayden Paddon and long-time co-driver John Kennard will contest seven events in this year's FIA World Rally Championships after securing a deal with Hyundai Motorsport.
The pair will compete in a Hyundai i20 WRC (world rally car), entered as Hyundai Motorsport N, with the potential to earn points in both the manufacturers' and drivers' championships and begin their campaign at June's Rally Italia Sardegna.
They will drive alongside the two Hyundai Shell World Rally Team i20 WRC branded cars, driven respectively by Thierry Neuville and by Juho Hanninen, and Dani Sordo and Chris Atkinson.
Paddon will become the first New Zealander to secure a professional contract to compete in the World Rally Championship.
"It is an incredible opportunity to be part of the Hyundai Motorsport team in these very exciting times,'' he said. "This is what we have worked so hard for, and it will allow us to step up another level with a good programme, a good team and a good testing and development programme.
"We are so ready to make the most of this opportunity. John and I are going to work very hard to meet the targets and objectives and help the team continue to develop towards 2015. It is also a fantastic opportunity for me to work and learn alongside some very experienced people within the team and, of course, the other drivers.''
Paddon, 26, has previously won the FIA Production car World Rally championships. He is already based in the German city of Frankfurt, less than 50km from the team's headquarters in Alzenau, and Kennard will fly from his home in Blenheim to join Paddon at each event.
June's Italian WRC event, Rally Italia Sardegna, will be Paddon and Kennard's first rally with Hyundai but the Kiwis head off to next week's Rally Mexico to complete pre-event reconnaissance to further their learning of all WRC event routes. Rallies in Poland in late June, Finland in early August, Australia in September and Great Britain in November are also confirmed with the other two yet to be decided from the remaining three events (Germany, France and Spain).
"From Rally Sardegna onwards, we will be contesting all but one of the events until the end of the WRC season,'' Paddon said. "They are all events that I am looking forward to and, other than Italy and Poland, events that we have experience of. I am particularly excited to also contest Rally Australia, a huge market for Hyundai and also the closest event we now get to home.
"It is literally a dream come true to have a good programme in a world rally car within one of the most exciting teams and manufacturers in world motorsport. This is culmination of 18 years of work, with a lot of sweat and tears and a lot of support from New Zealanders to help make this possible. Now we have to take this massive opportunity with both hands, maximise the potential learning and results from our seven events in the Hyundai i20 world rally car and build our career in the WRC.''