Jari Huttunen will compete for Hyundai Motorsport in the 2018 WRC2 championship, having been selected to join the marque’s recently established driver development programme ahead of seven other candidates.
Huttunen took part in two rounds of assessment with the Alzenau-based manufacturer, beating out the likes of compatriot Kalle Rovanperä and British driver Gus Greensmith for a coveted programme in the WRC support category for next season.
“It’s obviously a huge honour to be selected as the winning candidate for the Hyundai Motorsport Driver development Program,” said Huttunen. “There were a lot of very talented drivers involved, with more experience than me, so to be chosen is a nice surprise.
“To be able to draw on the support from such a successful team will allow me to focus fully on my driving and training and continue to improve my performance behind the wheel. Though I only had a short time in the New Generation i20 R5 at the test I quickly felt comfortable and was able to push, even in the difficult conditions. Now I can concentrate on preparing over the coming months. I’m really excited for the year ahead.”
While many of the final eight drivers competing for the Hyundai development slot were experienced R5-specification competitors, Huttunen has only rallied twice in such machinery, having spent this year racing for Opel Motorsport in a less powerful, front-wheel drive R2-spec car in the European Rally Championship.
“What stood out about Jari was his determination,” explained team manager Alain Penasse. “With only a few starts in an R5 car he had less experience than many of the other candidates, but was immediately competitive and consistent in the New Generation i20 R5 on both the tarmac and gravel stages.”
“He is a clearly a very talented driver, and has enormous potential as a rally driver. With the support of the Hyundai Motorsport Driver development Program we are confident he can continue his rapid progress in the sport next season.”
His schedule for 2018 is yet to be announced, with Hyundai saying he will be entered for “selected WRC2 events” next year, along with mid-season tests to support his development.