Hyundai Motorsport has confirmed Finnish driver Juho Hänninen as one of the team’s test drivers for 2013. Hyundai Motorsport’s “The Stig” identity has been revealed, but they have emphasized in the press release that Hanninen is but only one of their test drivers. Speculation still links Gilles Panizzi to Hyundai Motorsport too…
Hyundai Motorsport has been building up its new operation from scratch since the start of the year, establishing the team at a dedicated facility in Alzenau, Germany and recruiting specialists at every level of its organisation for its impressive-looking i20 WRC rally machine.
Test drivers are an integral part of any team’s development programme, requiring the necessary skills and experience to develop a competitive and reliable rally car in a short space of time. Six months ahead of the debut at Rallye Monte-Carlo in January 2014, Hyundai Motorsport is in the process of carrying out an intensive test programme to evaluate and develop the i20 WRC on all terrains and conditions. Hanninen is most definitely a good choice, as the Finn was part of Skoda Motorsport’s success in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) and the European Rally Championship (ERC).
Hänninen won the IRC in 2010, followed that up by winning the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship and the FIA European Rally Championship titles in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
According to the press releases, Hyundai Motorsport will soon be in a position to announce a second test driver for the remainder of the 2013 test phase. 2014 drivers will be announced at the end of the year. It is likely to be Hanninen, as he is undoubtedly one of the fastest drivers around today.
Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We’re very pleased to welcome Juho on board for our 2013 test programme. I’m sure his experience and background will contribute to the project and I’m happy with the job he’s done so far. We have decided to work with different drivers with unique skills and capabilities this year, which will provide us with valuable feedback for 2014.”
Hänninen said: “I’m delighted to be part of the Hyundai Motorsport testing programme for this year. It’s a fantastic opportunity to work closely to a manufacturer and to give my contribution to this great challenge. The first run with the i20 WRC was quite positive for me; I’m very impressed with the work the team has done so far in such an incredibly short space of time. I feel comfortable with everyone in the team and I look forward to carry on working with them in the next six months.”
More about Juho Hanninen:
Date and place of birth: 25.7.1981, Punkaharju, Finland
Marital status: Common-law marriage
Education: Bachelor of Natural Resources (North Karelia Polytechnic)
Hobbies: Gym, forestry
Favourite food and drink: Mashed potatoes with Karelian steak, milk
Career: Started rallying at age of 18.
First rally car: Volkswagen Golf
First rally: 1999 – Finnish Junior Championship rally in Mikkeli
First WRC event: 2006 in Sweden