Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC Team has confirmed its first driver and co-driver pairing for the manufacturers return to the FIA World Rally Championship in 2017 with Finnish driver Juho Hänninen and his co-driver Kaj Lindström signing on to the team for a one-year contract, with an option to extend beyond 2017.
With the team headed up by four-time World Rally Champion Tommi Mäkinen, the team have been working hard on development this year with their Yaris WRC. Hänninen has played an integral part of the development as the official test driver so will head in to the 2017 season with the best knowledge of the car.
Hänninen took the Intercontinental Rally Challenge championship title in 2010 and then claimed the FIA S-WRC title in 2011 before becoming the European Rally Champion the year after. Since then he has taken part in various top category rallies including impressive drives at Rally Sweden, Rally Poland and Rally Finland.
“This really feels like a dream come true!” said Hänninen. “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!”
Team Principal Tommi Mäkinen has been impressed with Hänninen so far and sees him as the perfect choice as one of his drivers for 2017.“When he joined the team, Juho was incredibly motivated and involved,” said Mäkinen.
“He also understood very clearly that we didn’t want to cut any corners and that the 2017 season would be about coming to grips with the championship and learning. He has quite a lot of experience in 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 that 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 also TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRC Team Vice-Principal, added “I am delighted that Juho will be part of the team for the 2017 season. Juho has been involved in the development of the Yaris WRC since the start of the project. We are looking forward to working together with him as we target a podium finish at the earliest possible opportunity and continue to strive to make ever-better cars.”