Reigning Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Juho Hanninen has confirmed his return to the World Rally Championship. The Finn will contest next season's Super 2000 WRC with the Red Bull Skoda team, alongside German driver Hermann Gassner Jr, in a deal which means Hanninen will not defend his IRC title.
Red Bull Skoda's current driver Patrik Sandell does not form part of the team's plans for 2011.
Despite his switch of emphasis, Hanninen will still begin his IRC title defence on next month's Monte Carlo Rally. Hanninen will continue testing for the Skoda team and he admitted an outing on the IRC's Barum Rally Zlin was also possible, but is glad to be heading back to the WRC for his main campaign.
"It's a natural step for me," said Hanninen. "I am very pleased to be going to the WRC again, this is where I wanted to be. I have really enjoyed the IRC, the good competition and good people. But now it's a new challenge and my priority is to win the S-WRC title." The two Fabia S2000s will be run by Raimund Baumschlager's Austrian team BRR.
Skoda Motorsport's Michal Hrabanek said: "We are really pleased that we can contribute to further growth of the Fabia Super 2000 project as part of Red Bull and BRR. Red Bull is one of the strongest possible partners. The BRR team, led by Raimund Baumschlager, a nine-time Austrian Rally champion and the buyer of the first Fabia Super 2000 vehicle we sold, is a guarantee of a highly professional approach and top-class background."
Hanninen and Gassner are expected to begin their seven-round S-WRC programs on Rally Mexico in March. Hanninen is no stranger to WRC competition, having finished runner-up in the Production Car series in 2008.