Hayden announced in January that he will return to the WRC in 2015 with Hyundai Motorsport with an expanded programme of 12 events at the wheel of a Hyundai i20 WRC car starting with round two, Rally Sweden. He will be backed by backed by partnerships with Kiwi brands Hyundai New Zealand, PlaceMakers and Pak’nSave. Now in their ninth year together, John will continue in the co-driver’s seat.

The New Zealanders kicked the season off with a career-best result, placing fifth place in the snowy, icy Rally Sweden.

Their March debut at Rally Mexico wasn’t as successful with several ups and downs, seeing them eventually finish 17th overall.

The following month Hayden and John took positives, such as their top five pace, away from the Rally Argentina after a tough, incident-packed event. The New Zealanders finished their third event of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship with the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team in 16th place overall.

They bounced back to form with eighth at Rally Portugal and although Hayden hoped for a top five result, he was encouraged by the relative closeness of his times to the rally’s podium finishers.

It all came together for them at Rally Italy Sardinia in June, with Hayden and John securing a history-making, career-best second place. Hayden described his first-ever WRC podium finish –the best result by a New Zealander in an overseas WRC rally –as a dream result. “To finish on the podium is an absolutely amazing feeling. Words can’t really do justice to how I’m feeling right now. We had a strong weekend from the start, but we just tried to take each stage as it came without looking too much at the timesheets. We knew it would get tougher once we lost the start position advantage so the fact, we could hold our own against the World Champion [Sebastien Ogier] was just fantastic. We had our issues on Saturday afternoon, and thought that was the rally over, but thankfully we pushed on through, kept digging deep and made it through the Sunday in a comfortable second. Considering our buffer to Thierry in third, we took today very easily, not taking any risks and we have a debut podium as a reward. It’s been great to have such support from back home and I’m sorry they’ve had some late nights. I hope it’s been as worthwhile for them as it has been for us. We couldn’t have done this without the team, so my thanks to everyone at Hyundai Motorsport, too. Let’s hope this is the start of more results to come.”

Early the next month the Kiwis secured fourth place in Rally Poland, the second consecutive top-four finish for their 2015 WRC season.

At the beginning of August, Hayden had the disappointment of crashing at the Finnish WRC event. He and John were forced to retire early on Friday afternoon after crashing in stage six and the car was too badly damaged for the team to fix it.

Later that month Hayden described his first tarmac event of his 2015 WRC season as “a trying but educational three days”. He and John secured ninth position in the ADAC Rallye Deutschland – a solid result considering the technical issues the pair experienced on Saturday, the longest day of the rally.

Competing closer to home in September, the Kiwis scored their fourth top-five result of the World Rally Championship season so far with a strong run to fifth overall in Coates Hire Rally Australia. The two New Zealanders competed in the #8 Hyundai i20 WRC rally car for the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team.

Making their debut at the iconic Tour de Corse French WRC event dubbed ‘rally of 10,000 corners’ on the island of Corsica, Hayden and John secured their fifth top-five finish in 2015. A push to lift their performance even higher on the final day saw them leapfrog from seventh to fifth overall.

Sticking with tarmac later in October, the Kiwis finished sixth at Rally Spain, the penultimate 2015 WRC event.

In November they wrapped up their successful season with another strong fifth place –their sixth of the season –on a typically wet and muddy Wales Rally GB. Following gale force winds and persistent rain overnight, the Kiwis started the final Sunday (UK time) leg of four stages in sixth position overall. Setting two fourth quickest and one third-quickest stage times, and with the demise of Ott Tanak, they stepped up another rung on the leader-board to fifth.

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