Toyota Gazoo Racing test driver Juho Hänninen admitted it was harder than he thought to drive a rally under test conditions – but added his Rally Italia Sardegna entry was a complete success for the team.
The Finn returned to World Rally Championship competition in Alghero, driving a fourth Yaris WRC for the first time since Wales Rally GB in 2017. His mission was to deliver as much data from a hot gravel rally as possible and, despite skipping the final test due to a steering issue, he did that.
From the start of the event, Hänninen had warned the media not to pay too much attention to his times, with his car often running in a compromised set-up to replicate different test conditions.
Despite those compromises his time on Friday afternoon’s Tergu-Osilo test was an impressive second fastest.
“For sure it was a good idea to come here and make this test,” said Hänninen. “Without doing this and having this knowledge it would be more difficult. In some ways now we are more clever than we were before – but there are still some ways where we need to continue working.”
Hänninen’s focus was on suspension development for this style of rallies.
“The suspension is where we learned more,” he added. “We changed a lot the set-up each time in service and it was quite difficult some times to go to the stages when you didn’t know exactly how the car was going to be. Then you have to make a loop of four stages with the car in this set-up; for sure it’s easier on the test when you can come back and change things straight away but here we had one chance to change in the middle of the day.
“When you are not in the right window, the times are going to be a bit slower. But it was definitely the right thing to do.”
Asked if there were any plans to repeat that process or if Hänninen might be seen out on the stages again, he replied: “I don’t think so, not for now. And for me to come back? No, I’m more on the testing side now.”