With Skoda electing to miss the latest round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge this weekend in Portugal, factory Skoda driver Juho Hanninen will make a return to the World Rally Championship for his home event of the year in Finland.
Hanninen, who carried Skoda to a maiden IRC win last time out in Russia, will join forces with the Red Bull Rally team for the Finnish event, which will see him running in Group N in a Skoda Fabia S2000 similar to the one in which he has competed in the IRC so far this season.
The home driver will also get the chance to go head-to-head with Ferrari F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen – who will compete in a FIAT Punto Grande Abarth – and Hanninen said he was looking forward to the event.
“I've seen in the PWRC how professionally this team is working,” he said. “That's why I'm very happy that I will get the opportunity to drive for the Red Bull Rally Team in my home country, of all places, because this appearance isn't just a terrific thing for me, but also important for my partners and of course my fans!
“Let's wait and see how quick Kimi's going to be. I have more rallying experience. That's why I hope that I'm going to be the faster one. My goal is to take the class win, like I did last year.”
Team boss Raimund Baumschlager said he was delighted to bring Hanninen in for the event and said the team would be able to use its additional outing to help prepare for the final stages of the Production World Rally Championship season.
“I know Juho very well,” he said. “We've done a lot of testing together for Skoda and, after all, he was our fiercest competitor in last year's PWRC. A very strong man – and a typical Finn. Very quiet on the outside but the exact opposite in the racecar. An all-out fighter who's only interested in winning.
“I'm very pleased to be able to run this additional campaign. On the one hand because of the prestige, but on the other hand also because we're once again able to try out several things for the PWRC final in Wales.”