FORMER TOYOTA GAZOO RACING DRIVER JUHO HÄNNINEN WILL MAKE A ONE-OFF RETURN TO THE FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP AT NEXT MONTH’S RALLY ITALIA SARDEGNA (13 – 16 JUNE).
The 37-year-old Finn will drive a Yaris World Rally Car, entered by Tommi Mäkinen Racing, at the Mediterranean island gravel road fixture. The event closes the first part of the FIA World Rally Championship season ahead of a seven-week break.
Hänninen, who will be co-driven by the experienced Tomi Tuominen, conducted the lion’s share of the test and development work on the Yaris ahead of the Japanese manufacturer’s WRC return in 2017 after a 17-year absence.
He partnered Jari-Matti Latvala and Esapekka Lappi in a three-car line-up that season. His best result was third at his home Neste Rally Finland.
The Italian rally will be Hänninen’s first start since crashing out of the penultimate round at Wales Rally GB. Since then he has been Toyota’s principal test driver.
Hänninen, who won the SWRC crown in 2011 before lifting the European title the following season, will be only the second non-works driver to pilot a Yaris at a WRC round.
Double world champion Marcus Grönholm became the first earlier this year at Rally Sweden.
Toyota Gazoo will continue to field its regular Yaris line-up of Ott Tänak, Latvala and Kris Meeke in Italy.