Juho Hanninen has been confirmed as the first driver in Toyota Gazoo Racing's line-up ahead of its return to WRC in 2017 with a one-year deal and will be joined by Kaj Lindstrom as his co-driver.
The former European Rally champion has been heavily involved in Toyota's development programme of its Yaris WRC challenger in preparation for the Japanese manufacturer's return to the championship and the squad sees Hanninen's appointment as first driver in its 2017 squad as the 'obvious choice'.
Hanninen, who won the FIA S-WRC title in 2011 before taking the ERC crown a year later, has made a number of entries in WRC as a privateer driver as well as a stint with Hyundai in 2014 but has spent the past 18 months predominantly focusing on test driver duties for Toyota.
The Finn has landed a full one-year programme in WRC for Toyota Gazoo Racing with extension options beyond 2017.
“This really feels like a dream come true,” Hanninen said. “Joining a works team with such potential for a full season is a real opportunity for me. We have been working together since the car's first outing, so that makes it all the more exciting and motivating. The Yaris WRC is incredible. I can't wait to get started at the Rallye Monte-Carlo.”
Former WRC champion Tommi Makinen has headed up the Toyota programme after it confirmed its return to the series in time for the 2017 regulation revamp and says selecting Hanninen became a simple option after impressing during testing and having useful previous experience in WRC.
“When he joined the team, Juho was incredibly motivated and involved,” Mäkinen said. “He also understood very clearly that we didn't want to cut any corners and that the 2017 season would be about coming to grips with the championship and learning. He has quite a lot of experience in World Rally Championship, and I'm sure that because he has developed the Yaris WRC from the beginning, he knows the car best. Therefore, it seems to be the perfect combination to me.
“I know that everyone in the team will do their very best to ensure that all the energy and hard work spent on this project over the last few months bring us success.”