Toyota Gazoo Racing has today announced that Finnish driver Juho Hänninen (above right) and his compatriot co-driver Kaj Lindström (above left) will compete for the team in the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship.
Led by four-time World Rally Champion Tommi Mäkinen, the Toyota Gazoo Racing team has been working around the clock testing the new Toyota Yaris WRC since the beginning of the year. Hänninen has been closely involved in this intense development programme as the team’s official test driver, strengthening his credentials as the ideal choice for Toyota’s return to the championship next year. He has signed a one-year contract with an option to extend beyond 2017.
Hänninen won the Intercontinental Rally Challenge in 2010 and built on this success by claiming the FIA Super 2000 WRC title in 2011. The following year he took the European Rally Champion title. He has experience of the sport’s top flight, putting in impressive performances in events such as Rally Sweden, Rally Poland and Rally Finland in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. He will be completing a full programme with Toyota Gazoo Racing, alongside the hugely experienced Lindström as co-driver.
Hänninen said: “This really feels like a dream come true. Joining a works team with such potential for a full season is a real opportunity for me. We have been working together since the car’s first outing, so that makes it all the more exciting and motivating. The Yaris WRC is incredible. I can’t wait to get started at the Rallye Monte Carlo.”
Tommi Mäkinen (above right), Team Principal, was pleased with the choice and took the opportunity to reiterate the fact the coming season would be first and foremost a learning experience for the entire team.
He said: “When Juho joined the team he was incredibly motivated and involved. He also understood very clearly that we didn’t want to cut any corners and that the 2017 season would be about getting to grips with the championship and learning. He has quite a lot of experience in the World Rally Championship and I’m sure that because he has developed the Yaris WRC from the beginning, he knows the car best. Therefore, it seems to be the perfect combination to me.
“I know everyone in the team will do their very best to ensure that all the energy and hard work spent on this project over the last few months bring us success.”
Koei Saga, Chief Officer and Technical Director of Toyota Gazoo Racing Factory and Vice-Principal of the Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC team, added: “I am delighted that Juho will be part of the team for the 2017 season. We are looking forward to working with him as we target a podium finish at the earliest possible opportunity and continue to strive to make ever-better cars.”
Juho Hänninen biographical and career details
Date of birth/age: 25 July 1981/35 years
2001: First rally, SM Valvoline Rally (Finland)
2006: First WRC rally, Rally Sweden
2008: First victory, Rally Russia (Intercontinental Rally Challenge with Peugeot 207 S2000)
2010: IRC Champion (with Skoda Fabia S2000)
2011: FIA S-WRC Champion (with Skoda Fabia S2000)
2012: FIA ERC Champion (with Skoda Fabia S2000)
WRC starts: 43
Points scored: 54
Stage wins: 3