Jukka Korhonen has become the first non-British winner of the Pirelli UK Star Driver award.
Three of the five Irish drivers invited to the end of season shoot-out to decide the winner of a fully-funded drive in next season’s British rally championship declined to take part.
In an unprecedented move, Marty McCormack, Jonny Greer and Mark Donnelly decided the car on offer — a TEG Sport-prepared Skoda Fabia R2 — would not help to progress their careers. The new British champion, Scot David Bogie, also opted out.
Desi Henry and Tommy Doyle did take part in the shoot-out in Wales last week but the prize went to 27-year-old Finn, Korhonen, champion in this year's Fiesta Trophy in his homeland and with a best result of sixth overall on April's Pirelli International Rally.
The judging panel included Ulsterman Chris Patterson, co-driver for Petter Solberg in the World championship, as well as former British champions Gwyndaf Evans and Jimmy McRae. Two Irish drivers, Darren Gass and Keith Cronin, have been previous winners of the shoot-out when the prize of offer was a car with rally-winning potential.
McCormack, meanwhile, was among the 2011 champions honoured at the British championship awards night in Manchester at the weekend. He was the winner of the Formula Two and Junior titles in company with co-driver David Moynihan.
Pedro de la Rosa will return to F1 in 2012 after signing a two-year deal with the Spanish HRT team.
The 40-year-old said: “This is a very important step in my sporting career. I'm at a very good stage in terms of maturity and am prepared to take on this challenge.”
HRT have not yet confirmed their second driver for next season. There are three drivers who still have ties to the team.
Tonio Liuzzi joined HRT in 2011 from Force India while Aussie Daniel Ricciardo, who is on loan from Toro Rosso, became Indian Narain Karthikeyan's replacement midway through the season.
But backmarkers HRT have now turned to the experienced De la Rosa to spearhead their third season in Formula 1.