We at WRC are pretty good at guessing things, especially if someone initially leaks the tiniest bit of hint. During the recent official test, Hyundai took steps to mask the identity of the driver, and WRC community responded by plotting all sorts of theories. It was quite entertaining, and is perfectly fine for a team to determine their own pace of releasing important information. But, on to the point.
One of Hyundai Motorsport’s many secrets is out – the team “admitted” it was Juho Hanninen behind the wheel of the i20 WRC, and confirmed the Finn for a test driver role. To keep things secretive still, Hyundai did not reveal the name of their second test driver, so once again we get to speculate. Is it Gilles Panizzi? Petter Solberg perhaps?
Even though Juho Hanninen is highly respected driver, his experience in current WRC cars on proper WRC events is rather limited. Nonetheless, with International Rally Challenge and European Rally Championship titles under his belt, he does command overall experience of various platforms and events. And let’s not forget the fact that he also won Super 2000 World Rally Championship few years ago.
Hyundai plans to unveil second test driver soon, while the official line-up for the 2014 season is to be confirmed at the end of the year.
Hänninen named as Hyundai Motorsport mystery driver
Hyundai Motorsport has today announced Finnish driver Juho Hänninen as one of the team’s test drivers for 2013, ending weeks of speculation over the mystery man behind the wheel of the Hyundai i20 WRC in May.
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.
Test drivers are an integral part of the 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.
Hänninen won the Intercontinental Rally Challenge in 2010 followed by the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship and the FIA European Rally Championship titles in 2011 and 2012 respectively. He will be a valuable asset for the team to prepare the assault to the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship.
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.
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.”