Today’s half term driver report focuses on Juho Hanninen who has contested selected rallies with Hyundai so far this season:
The Finn is one of three drivers chosen to back up team leader, Thierry Neuville, this season so his outings in the brand-new i20 WRC have been intentionally sporadic.
He’s only started four out of seven events and that’s meant building up any kind of momentum has been a real problem for the 32-year-old.
A non-finish in Sweden got his season off to a disappointing start – particularly as he was sixth overall when he retired – then missing Mexico was hardly ideal preparation for his next event in Portugal.
The gravel round proved to be another trying event for Hanninen as a string of punctures, a broken driveshaft and then a bump into a tree all conspired against him. Four points was a disappointing return.
Despite missing the next round in Argentina, Hanninen’s fortunes improved on the events in Italy and Poland as he set a couple of fastest stage times and even briefly led in Sardinia.
Although he crashed out in Italy (see below), the confidence Hanninen drew from contesting a brace of back-to-back rallies was clear to see in Poland as he finished sixth.
It’s taken a bit of time for the Finn to find his feet and display his natural speed this season but that’s to be expected under the conditions.
The real test for Hanninen will come at Rally Finland later this month. It’s his home event and it’ll be his third consecutive rally this season. You can be sure that Hyundai will be expecting a big performance and monitoring his progress carefully.
Hanninen will remember the first four stages at Rally Italia Sardinia fondly. Okay, he was benefitting from a decent road position, but he still worked hard to set a fastest stage time on SS3 and even led the rally for a time. This was a rally where Hanninen and Neuville showed the true potential of the i20 WRC.
That has to be SS5 at Rally Italia Sardinia. A rally that had promised so much quickly fell to pieces. Chasing team-mate Neuville down for the rally lead, Hanninen couldn’t prevent his car jumping out of some ruts and clipping a bank. That forced his i20 into a sequence of high-speed rolls before coming to rest upside down in the Sardinian undergrowth. Rally over.
Juho Hanninen gallery
Half-term report: Mads Ostberg
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Half-term report: Jari-Matti Latvala
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