Monday | 18 Jan 2021

Hänninen gains inside line on Arctic roads

Toyota Gazoo Racing test driver Juho Hänninen delivered a commanding victory on last weekend’s Arctic Lapland Rally in Finland.

But more important than topping the podium, Hänninen delivered data on the kind of conditions his team-mates can expect at the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship next month.

Hänninen’s entry on the two-day Rovaniemi-based event followed confirmation of Arctic Rally Finland as the second WRC round of the season on 26 - 28 February.

Hänninen drove a Yaris World Rally Car on roads similar to those which will be used next month and won six of the seven stages to collect victory by almost 2min 30sec.

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The Toyota man was happy with a job well done through the frozen forests inside the Arctic Circle.

“It was a good test,” he said. “The job is done now. Doing this rally will make it easier for the others (Sébastien Ogier, Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanperä) to start their pre-event test. We had some new parts and we were running the new [Pirelli] tyres.”

The only man to beat Hänninen on a stage was Hyundai Motorsport’s new WRC2 teenage star Oliver Solberg.

Despite never having competed in a Hyundai i20 R5 or on the rally, 19-year-old Solberg stormed through Saturday’s stages, setting first or second fastest time on each one to finish third, just 0.9sec from second place.

Oliver Solberg finished third on his Hyundai i20 R5 debut

It was the perfect introduction to the car for the Swede, who moves into WRC mode for this week’s season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo (21 - 24 January).

Solberg said: “On Friday, I was learning the car still and finding my way a little bit. It wasn’t so easy to find a rhythm from the roads. But on Saturday I was comfortable and able to push a bit harder.

“Overall, I have to say I am really, really happy. The conditions to drive in were so nice, it’s a lot of fun to drive on roads like this with very good grip from the Pirelli tyres. For my first time with the Hyundai, it’s a fantastic result. And for the team as well.”

WRC2 team-mate Ole Christian Veiby finished 20th after admitting to early mistakes and a lack of commitment in some of the faster sections. However, the bulk of the time loss came courtesy of a throttle problem.