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Wed 06 Jul 2022

Home hero Huttunen bags Puma for Finland

Jari Huttunen will step up to the FIA World Rally Championship’s top-level for the first time at next month’s Secto Rally Finland (4 - 7 August) in an M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1.

The 28-year-old will get a full test day in Estonia to prepare for the season’s fastest round, at which Huttunen claimed WRC2 victory in 2017 on his debut in the premier support category.

Huttunen joined the British squad from Hyundai Motorsport in November last year. Three podiums, including one victory, in four WRC2 appearances since then have been rewarded with a top-flight tilt on home ground for the flying Finn.

Huttunen, who won the WRC3 title in 2020, will be partnered by regular co-driver Mikko Lukka. He said it would be a special feeling to join the top-tier team on familiar territory.

“I’m really excited to be doing my home rally in a Puma. It will be a great experience and I’m looking forward to the atmosphere with the fans and everything,” he enthused.

“It will definitely be challenging on such a fast rally in a car with so much power, but I have a good feeling in the [Fiesta] Rally2 already and so I feel we will carry that feeling over to the Puma.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with M-Sport on these past events and I’m starting to feel very at home. The aim for the weekend will be to learn from the car and try to keep a good rhythm with a steady pace.”

Team principal Richard Millener said Huttunen’s graduation to Rally1 underlined M-Sport’s commitment to provide young drivers with top-level opportunities. Pierre Louis Loubet, 25, finished fourth at Rally Italia Sardegna last month on his third Puma outing.

“We are promoting a new generation of cars this year as we embark upon WRC’s new hybrid era. It is therefore paramount that we provide opportunities to a new generation of drivers as well,” he explained.

“This is something M-Sport prides itself on and has a long history of doing and we saw recently with Pierre-Louis what fresh talent is capable of. Jari has followed a similar path to Pierre-Louis when you look at their results and I am sure everybody will keeping a keen eye on Jari’s progress.”

Millener said there would be no targets for Huttunen.

“There will be no goals or pressure, we simply want to see what Jari can do when given the tools and machinery. It will be a learning exercise more than anything, for Jari, Mikko and the team,” he added.

“For Jari he will be starting to learn what it takes to be at the very top of the WRC, for us we will learn what we need to do to support and develop Jari to get him to the top level.”

Before Finland, Huttunen will resume his WRC2 campaign at Rally Estonia (14 - 17 July) in a Fiesta Rally2.