Valtteri Bottas will make his competitive rally debut in a Ford Fiesta World Rally Car at the 2019 Arctic Rally Lapland next month.
The Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport driver will embark on his new journey just three weeks prior to the start of winter testing for the 2019 Formula 1 season, on 24-26 January.
Bottas will drive in an M-Sport Fiesta that is similar to the model that Sébastien Ogier piloted to the 2017 and ’18 World Rally Championship titles. His co-driver for the event will be double WRC champion Timo Rautiainen, formerly Marcus Grönholm‘s co-driver with Toyota, Peugeot and Ford.
Bottas expressed his gratitude in being granted the “unique” opportunity, adding that he will try to find his limit as soon as possible.
“This is a unique opportunity to take a peek into the world of rallying,” said Bottas, talking to Autosport. “I would like to thank everyone who has made it possible.
“It’s totally new territory for me too, as I have no prior experience of a World Rally Car. Still, being the race car driver that I am, you always go flat out whatever the vehicle you’re driving in.”
Bottas joins a strong list of former Formula 1 drivers that have competed in the rally, including three world champions in Keke Rosberg, Kimi Räikkönen and Bottas’s mentor Mika Häkkinen. JJ Lehto and Heikki Kovalainen have also taken part in the event.
54-year-old Rautiainen, who collected 30 wins in 144 WRC starts alongside Grönholm, said that he could not turn down the offer of partnering Bottas in his new venture.
“This is such an interesting mission that I just had to accept the challenge,” Rautiainen said.
“I believe that for a talented wheelman like Valtteri, we’ll be able to establish a good basic driving routine in testing. The challenging part of course will be learning the ins and outs of pace note making and learning to drive with pace notes all at once.”
Grönholm and Rautiainen took three successive Arctic Rally victories from 1996 to ’98 in Toyota Celicas.