Up-and-coming Finnish rally driver Jukka Korhonen has been elected by a distinguished panel of judges as the Pirelli UK Star Driver for 2012.
Korhonen, the first driver not from Great Britain to win the award in its four-year history, will receive a fully-funded drive on next year’s British Rally Championship in a Skoda Fabia R2 run by TEG Sport. The car will run in a unique Pirelli Star Driver livery, highlighting the exceptional opportunity that Pirelli continues to give young rallying talent in Britain.
The 27-year-old Finn won the drive following a two-day selection process held earlier in the week, during which six drivers went head-to-head for the coveted prize. They were assessed by a team of judges that comprised Pirelli senior tyre engineer Matteo Braga, former British Rally Champions Gwyndaf Evans and Jim McRae, and World Rally Championship co-driver Chris Patterson. The tests included interview technique and pace-note preparation, as well as a driving assessment over a specially-created stage at Rowrah circuit in Cumbria with the Skoda Fabia R2, together with other practical exams such as a timed wheel change.
Korhonen, co-driven by his compatriot Marko Salminen, was announced as the winner at the British Rally Championship Awards in Manchester tonight, having impressed the judges in every area. The Finn won the Fiesta Trophy in Finland this year, taking five dominant victories, and also impressed with a stellar performance on the Pirelli International Rally in April, where he won the R2 class and finished sixth overall.
The other finalists for this year’s Pirelli Star Driver nomination were Tommy Doyle, Desi Henry, Osian Pryce, Siim Plangi and Peter Taylor – all of whom performed brilliantly during the selection process.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “First and foremost, I’d like to say that all the drivers can feel proud of themselves for having got to the final selection. But we can only pick one winner, and all the judges thought that Jukka would make an excellent ambassador for Pirelli on the British Rally Championship as part of the prestigious Star Driver scheme, with the right performance and mental strength to really make a difference.”
Korhonen added: “I’m very grateful to Pirelli for this fantastic opportunity – and I fully intend to make the most of it. I really enjoyed my first taste of the Skoda Fabia R2 during the shoot-out and I think that we can fight for overall wins with this car. Coming to compete in Britain with Pirelli is one of my dreams, and I am so happy to have achieved it.”
Korhonen follows in the footsteps of Darren Gass (2008), Adam Gould (2009), Keith Cronin (2010) and Elfyn Evans (2011): all of whom are previous winners of the Pirelli Star Driver prize. Next year’s British Rally Championship takes in six rounds on gravel and asphalt.
– Credit: Pirelli Media.