Kiwi rally driver Hayden Paddon has always targeted 2018 as his first real chance of winning a world title but with the championship going through so much change this off-season he is daring to dream of success next year.

Paddon finished an impressive fourth in this year's championship, collecting a maiden WRC win in Argentina in the process. But with the shock exit of German manufacturer Volkswagen, which will force four-time world champion Sebastien Ogier and teammates Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-Matti Latvala to move teams, as well as new cars being used by all teams in 2017 Paddon is all of a sudden in the frame.

"The target is still 2018," Paddon said. "At the same time next year there is an opportunity. Seb, who has been the benchmark, is going to be in a new car and a new team and he is going to have to learn everything. There are going to be a lot of unknowns with the cars, reliability etc so we have to turn up and put our best foot forward.

"There could be a golden opportunity next year but it is not something we go into the season thinking about specifically."


Citroen will make a return to the championship in a fulltime capacity next year and Brit driver Kris Meeke will take advantage of what is expected to be an impressive new car the French manufacturer is using.

Paddon will have to battle teammate Thierry Neuville, who bounced back strongly to finish runner-up to Ogier this season after a disappointing couple of seasons with Hyundai.

Ogier is yet to announce where he will drive but he has tested the M-Sport Ford and the new Toyota Yaris and will be a strong favourite to succeed wherever he ends up.

The Frenchman will earn a bigger salary with Toyota, who make their long-awaited return to WRC next year but should have a more competitive car if he were to sign with M-Sport Ford. The 32-year-old previously drove for Citroen but his relationship ended on a sour note and they have denied him the chance to test drive their new car unless he signs on as a driver next year.

"He is certainly in a strong position - someone of his calibre can actually go test the cars and then make a decision - the rest of us can't do that," Paddon says. "We have to make those decisions based on contracts and things."

The Kiwi thinks Ogier will end up driving for the Blue Oval next year.

Meanwhile, his focus is on the development of his new Hyundai with the season-opening Monte Carlo rally just seven weeks away.

"We know the new cars are faster - it depends on the roads and the conditions but they can be anywhere from a second to a second and a half quicker than this year.


"I think our development programme is on track. The team is happy. Our reliability has been very good; that is always the key thing when you test a new car.

"When you drive it it feels good.

"We will prepare as well as we can and go to Monte Carlo and see how we stack up and where we need to improve."