Abiteboul’s reaction to Suninen’s retirement

Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul is naturally disappointed, but hopes Suninen learns from a harsh lesson

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Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul has shared his reaction to Teemu Suninen’s penultimate stage crash on Rally Chile with DirtFish.

Suninen was in second place and the lead Hyundai driver throughout the rally until he clouted a tree stump on SS15 and went off the road.

That promoted team-mate Thierry Neuville, who had been chasing him down through the stages of Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, into second but meant only one of the Hyudai i20 N Rally1s made the podium.

Esapekka Lappi had crashed the third out on the rally’s very first stage.

Abiteboul hadn’t imposed any team orders between his two drivers for the final day, but had made it clear to them it was important that both made the end of the rally and preserved a double podium.


“I thought that maybe I was not clear enough [with my drivers]. But I did think I was clear,” Abiteboul told DirtFish.

“So, you know it’s difficult because at the same time the guys, I think they want to shine. And they want to shine for the team, they want to deliver, but also they want to shine for themselves. And I think that’s also maybe the step too far that experience, maybe maturity is helping you not to do. And in that case that didn’t really help.”

Suninen has started 40 events at the top level of the World Rally Championship, but only three in Rally1 cars and has not been a full-time driver since 2020. His first two rallies in the i20 earlier this year resulted in fifth and fourth place finishes, his best WRC results in almost three years. Second place in Chile would have matched his best ever result, achieved on Rally Italy Sardinia in 2019.

I hope and believe it’s also going to help him in his building process. It’s all about the learning curve Cyril Abiteboul

“I don’t want to be too harsh, because again you should not forget the fact that he’s been doing a fantastic rally to bring him into that position and to give this opportunity to the team to have two cars on the podium. But that’s not happening,” continued Abiteboul.

“I think, I hope and believe it’s also going to help him in his building process. It’s all about the learning curve. As we talk about learning curve, about how to deal with the car, how to deal with hard tires yesterday, which is a thing he had not experienced before.

“And hopefully that’s also part of the learning process that he’s experiencing today, in a hard way. That’s clearly the hard way for the team, and I’m sure it’s also the hard way for the [driver].

“We also need to move on from that at some point, but for now we are all very disappointed, that’s for sure.”

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Abiteboul reiterated that in the discussion with his drivers before the Sunday afternoon stages “I believe that the target and the context was clear”.

He added: “In particular we were already thinking about road position for Central European Rally, and Ott [Tänak] and Thierry’s situation in the championship in that respect. So we talk about all these things. We talked about the context [of the importance of a double podium], it’s not like we didn’t discuss.”

Ultimately Suninen’s crash helped Toyota wrap up the manufacturer’s title with two rallies to spare, but Abiteboul did not want to come down too hard on him.

“I also understand, I’m trying to comment and look at it in a balanced way. Because the guys are putting all our hope for the future into one position,” he said.

“I guess it’s more maturity than discipline. I think maturity is what is going to help in making a difference between what’s going to help us making the right assessment for [putting him in a car] next year.

“A P2 or a P3 was not going to change what we think for the future. Maturity is something that we can build together.”