Reigning Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Juho Hanninen will switch his focus to the World Rally Championship in 2011, when he competes in the SWRC category for Red Bull Skoda.
The Red Bull Skoda team has been formed as a development of the existing relationship between the Skoda brand, the private Baumschlager Rally Racing (BRR) team and the energy drink company Red Bull. Finn Hanninen and co-driver Mikko Markkula will be joined in the team by the German crew of Hermann Gassner Jr and his co-driver Katharina Wustenhagen.
Led by Austrian Raimund Baumschlager, BRR's Red Bull Rallye Team has used a Skoda Fabia S2000 in the WRC in the last two seasons. Patrik Sandell has driven for the team with support from the Swedish importer of Skoda, taking two category wins in each season. Hanninen has also driven for BRR on occasions, winning the SWRC category on Rally Finland last season.
Following its success in the IRC, Skoda Motorsport have now joined forces with BRR and Red Bull to create the Red Bull Skoda team. Head of Skoda Motorsport Michal Hrabanek said: “We are really pleased that we can contribute to further growth of the Fabia Super 2000 project as part of Red Bull and BRR. Red Bull is one of the strongest possible partners on today’s sports scene.
“The BRR team led by Raimund Baumschlager, a nine-time Austrian Rally Champion and the buyer of the first Fabia Super 2000 vehicle we sold, is a guarantee of a highly professional approach and top-class background.”
Baumschlager added: “First of all, I wish to thank Skoda Motorsport and also Red Bull, our partner, for their support. We have only the best experience of cooperating with them, and they are both leaders in what they do.
“Juho has been one of the top drivers over the last few years, I remember him when he used to appear in PWRC – he was our toughest competitor in the battle for the championship title. At the same time, I know him as an excellent test driver and a great chap, too. I am sure that with him around we can think of the highest ranks.
“Hermann Gassner has a great opportunity to grow beside Juho and learn from him, in both tests and races. We are planning to appear in about seven championships events.”