Twelve months ago, by Hyundai Motorsport team principal Andrea Adamo’s own admission, Jari Huttunen was done. Finished. He’d crashed once too often and the Finn had well and truly used all nine of his lives.
Almost against his better judgement, Adamo was persuaded by Hyundai Customer Racing’s Andrew Johns to give him another go.
Antti Linnaketo was replaced by Mikko Lukka in the co-driver’s seat and a step-by-step approach was taken to the balance of 2019. There was no more scrap metal. No more bent cars.
And things have, for the Finn, continued to improve through a coronavirus-limited 2020.
“I took the decision. I decided 12 months ago that he was finished,” Adamo told DirtFish.
“But I was pushed to go ahead and support him. It was rally-by-rally.
“OK, you do well in this event then maybe it’s OK for the next one. I know he’s not smiling so much and I know he’s not making the stories in maybe the same way that Oliver [Solberg] is, but he is a young guy and he is a fast guy.
“What he can definitely do is drive fast. It would be good if we saw him smile some more, but honestly I am more interested in how he can handle the pressure we give to him. He is working as a mechanic between the rallies and, like I said, he really doesn’t know when his next event will be. Psychologically that’s tough for a driver, but being a world champion you have to show that you can be tough.
“Really? Honestly? I am impressed with what he has done and how has turned things around in the last year.”
Huttunen will arrive at Monza Rally second in the WRC3 title race, but arguably favorite for the win. He’s two points behind Marco Bulacia, but Huttunen has only started three of a possible four rounds he can score points from – and he’s won two of those and finished second on the other.