(28/11/2013) FINLAND’S Juho Hänninen has been confirmed as one of the drivers who will join Thierry Neuville in the new Hyundai WRC team next year.
Currently one of the team’s three test drivers, Hänninen will pilot the squad’s second Hyundai i20 WRC car at an unspecified number of WRC rallies, starting with Rally Sweden in February.
With Hyundai previously saying it intends to share the second car among a number of drivers next year, a further announcement is expected soon on who it will put in the car on round one in Monte-Carlo from 14 January.
Hanninen’s fellow test drivers, Australian Chris Atkinson and Bryan Bouffier of France, are likely candidates to partner full-time lead driver Thierry Neuville.
Hänninen, 32, has become well-acquainted with the team throughout 2013 and has completed 3500 testing kilometres in the i20 WRC.
“I am very pleased to continue our working relationship with Juho,” Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal, Michel Nandan said.
“He was the first driver to sign for Hyundai Motorsport earlier this year and he was the one who completed the first-ever runs in the Hyundai i20 WRC.
“He has shown great loyalty to our new team and it is fitting that he joins us at a number of specific events during our maiden WRC season.”
Hänninen will be joined in 2014 by his co-driver Tomi Tuominen and will continue his testing role in addition to his competitive appearances.
“Juho has done an outstanding job in testing this year. He has proven to be a very complete driver with a perfect mix of speed and technical abilities, as well as being a real team player giving valuable feedback to our team of engineers,” Nandan added.
Hänninen has tasted success in a variety of different rally cars and has been victorious in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, the FIA European Rally Championship and the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship.
“I am really honoured to have been chosen by Hyundai to be one of the drivers of the second i20 WRC car in 2014, including Rally Sweden, which is one of my favourites,” Hänninen said.
“I have been working with the team a lot since May and it has been a really fantastic project to be involved in. All the people in the team are very nice and it has been friendly environment, but with everyone still giving 100% all the time. It’s been a pleasure to work with them in testing and I really respect the opportunity to drive some rallies for the team in 2014.”