World Rally Championship co-driver John Kennard's announcement that he's stepping back from being Hayden Paddon's co-pilot should come as no surprise. Discussions about a succession plan for Paddon's co-driver have been happening on and off for the past two years.

Kennard has been well aware that at his age he couldn't keep contributing at the elite level of rallying in the manner he wanted too.

Fans can rest assured that it was no easy decision, and in keeping with the bigger picture for Paddon's future in the sport, Kennard knew it was right move.

They had talked about splitting up way back when the big adventure started 12 years ago. They both knew that at some stage it would be beneficial for Paddon to make a change and it was mutually agreed that now was the time.

Advertisement

"It just got to the point that change had to happen," said Kennard.

"We could still make progress and possibly win the championship - it's a bit hard now [2017] after the first three rounds - but definitely possible in 2018.

"If it doesn't happen [WRC title] in 2018 it then becomes harder the longer we wait, so it's better to do it now [change co-drivers]. It'll be a spur for Hayden to work even harder than he does now, if that's at all possible.

"From a competitive point of view I'd love to stay in the car forever. You could bury me in one of those cars. However, the way that car is now, and the level of technology and speed you get now, makes everything happen so fast. You have no time to think about anything, which it makes it so much harder.

"I have to work so much harder at the mental side of things, especially at my age, and even if I slow down a slight bit, I'm still slowing down."

Paddon's new co-driver, Seb Marshall, is already part of the Hyundai Motorsport family sitting beside Hyundai test driver Kevin Abbring. He has been part of Paddon's team that helps gather information on road surface conditions and possible tyre choice.

"They do all the testing together now as it is. I haven't done any testing with Hayden since last year. Seb was already part of the test schedule co-driving with Kevin anyway, so we just put him in the car when it was Hayden's turn to test the new car.

"Seb was already a pretty accomplished co-driver and when I meet him. His approach, demeanour and the way he goes about things is pretty much the same way I did things 30 years ago.

"He enjoys the technical side of note making and is always looking at new ways to draw the symbols and take notes just the same as I have always done.

"An added bonus is that he and Hayden get along so it's a good base to build a great relationship," he said.

Kennard is definitely not stepping away from Paddon and the Hyundai Motorsport team. The 57-year-old is more stepping sideways and will remain hands on in some areas.

Paddon himself is keen to have access to the great empirical knowledge that Kennard has accumulated over his long and successful career in all aspects of rallying.

"I'll certainly stay involved with the team and will carry on doing Hayden's gravel notes on the rallies where you're still allowed to travel on the roads in a road car. I'll still be at two of the last four rounds this year.

"Hayden has indicated that it could be an ongoing thing and we'll just have to see how it works out. I want to stay involved and at the moment that's what's going to happen," said Kennard.

Paddon and Marshall have their first hit out together next week at Rallye Sanremo (part of the Intercontinental Rally Championship) as a get to know each other without the pressure of trying to get driver and manufacturer points. It also has very similar tarmac conditions to that of Rally Corsica, which is in early April.

The first WRC event together will be Rally Germany, which means the new pairing has four events to get bedded in before a full on assault on the 2018 championship.