Rising Finnish rally driver Jukka Korhonen has been selected as the Pirelli UK Star Driver for 2012 and will receive a fully-funded drive on next year's British Rally Championship.
27-year-old Korhonen is the first driver from outside the British Isles to win the prize. He will campaign a Skoda Fabia R2 run by the TEG Sport operation next year.
He went up against five other drivers in a two-day selection process earlier this week. The sextet were judged by a panel made up of former British Rally Champions Gwyndaf Evans and Jimmy McRae, Petter Solberg's World Rally Championship co-driver Chris Patterson and Pirelli senior tyre engineer Matteo Braga.
The tests the drivers were subjected to included interview technique, pace-note preparation and a driving assessment on a stage in Cumbria behind the wheel of the Skoda.
Korhonen was announced as the winner at the BRC awards do in Manchester on Saturday night. He won this year's Finnish Fiesta Trophy, and also impressed on a one-off BRC appearance on the Pirelli International Rally where he won the R2 class and finished sixth overall.
He defeated Tommy Doyle, Desi Henry, Osain Pryce, Siim Plangi and Peter Taylor to win the prize, and follows in the footsteps of previous winners Darren Gass, Adam Gould, Keith Cronin and Elfyn Evans.
“I'm very grateful to Pirelli for this fantastic opportunity – and I fully intend to make the most of it,” said Korhonen. “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.”
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.”