*Flying Finn earns Hyundai Motorsport Driver development Program spot
*Role of ERC Junior in nurturing young stars for future progression highlighted
*Other past and present ERC Juniors make assessment shortlist
FIA ERC Junior Under 27 Championship driver Jari Huttunen’s considerable talent has been recognised with a place on the Hyundai Motorsport Driver development Program for 2018.
A contender for the FIA ERC Junior U27 title on next week’s Rally Liepāja, Huttunen was chosen ahead of seven fellow rising stars from national and international championships, having excelled during a two-stage assessment process, which included tests on asphalt and gravel.
He will be rewarded with a programme of world championship events in a Hyundai New Generation i20 R5 next season alongside a testing campaign.
“It’s obviously a huge honour to be selected as the winning candidate for the Hyundai Motorsport Driver development Program,” said the 23-year-old Finn, who progressed to the ERC after winning the national-level ADAC Opel Rallye Cup in Germany in 2016. “There were a lot of very talented drivers involved, with more experience than me, so to be chosen is a nice surprise. To be able to draw on the support from such a successful team will allow me to focus fully on my driving and training and continue to improve my performance behind the wheel. Though I only had a short time in the New Generation i20 R5 at the test I quickly felt comfortable and was able to push, even in the difficult conditions. Now I can concentrate on preparing over the coming months. I’m really excited for the year ahead.”
Devised by ERC promoter Eurosport Events, ERC Junior U27 is for drivers born on or after 1 January 1990 competing in R2 cars on Pirelli tyres. Competitors count their best four scores from a possible six with the eventual champion receiving 100,000 euros to use for an ERC Junior U28 campaign in 2018 when they will step up to R5 machinery. Stéphane Lefebvre, a factory Citroën driver in the WRC, Emil Bergkvist and Marijan Griebel have claimed ERC Junior title success in the past, while Huttunen is one of four drivers in contention to become ERC Junior U27 champion on Rally Liepāja in Latvia next week.
ERC Co-ordinator Jean-Baptiste Ley welcomed Hyundai’s decision. He said: “Our strategy has always been about promoting young drivers and helping rallying and the FIA in building a pyramid from national level to the WRC via the ERC. We are really delighted one of our leading drivers in FIA ERC Junior U27 has been given this chance to compete in WRC2 with the support of a leading manufacturer in Hyundai. Congratulations to Jari for this achievement. The ERC’s strapline is #GotTalentProveIt and Jari has certainly done that.”