Kiwi World Rally Championship star Hayden Paddon will face his biggest challenge of the season in the first event - this week's Monte Carlo Rally.

The traditional season-opening rally is staged in the middle of the northern hemisphere winter, which can provide nearly impossible conditions to drive in and Paddon is bracing for the worst.

Because the stages are up and over mountain passes, the weather on one side of the terrain can be quite different to the other, making car set-up impossibly hard to get right.

"It really depends on the conditions at the time," Paddon said.

"It can be a very slow event if it is icy and snowy and potentially on slicks and trying to negotiate those conditions. If it is a bit warmer and there is no ice or snow then it is a bit more like a traditional tarmac event - it can swing both ways."


"It is all about strategy and right tyre choices. It is highly probable that you will be on the wrong tyre at some point of the event and it is going to be about how you manage that and choosing the right compromised tyre for the conditions."

Paddon, who has limited experience at Monte Carlo, will use lessons learned from a failure there last year to help him prepare for his 2017 effort.

"When you do get to the part of the stage where you know your tyres don't work it is about mentally adjusting," he said.

"We were in that situation last year. We hit the tree going about 10km an hour because it felt so slow in the car and felt like you are losing a lot of time but it is very easy to forget that it is actually the same for everybody.

"It is certainly my least favourite event and definitely the most challenging event of the year so it is a good way to wake you up and kick yourself into the year ahead."

Paddon will get his first competitive miles in the 2017-spec Hyundai i20 car when the event begins tomorrow. Likewise, it will be his first chance to see his rivals' new cars in action as well - Ford, Citroen and the returning Toyota will also be showcasing their new designs as well.

Having finished fourth in the championship last season and with four-time champ Sebastien Ogier being forced to switch manufacturers after Volkswagen's surprise exit, Paddon is expected to be in contention this year.

But he has more modest goals at Monte Carlo. "A finish - I am going there with zero expectations of a result," he said. "If we can finish then I think we can pick up some points.

"We need the experience there - last year we didn't do one whole day of the rally and ironically that whole day we missed out on last year is the only day that is the same this year so we can't afford to miss out on that sort of experience again."