Suninen worried for younger drivers in the WRC

The challenge of adapting to the top-class car is greater than ever, and opportunties are so sparse, says the Hyundai man

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As he stands on the verge of his top-flight World Rally Championship return, Teemu Suninen has told DirtFish of his concerns for the next generation of drivers.

The 29-year-old will contest next week’s Rally Estonia and Rally Finland in a Hyundai i20 N Rally1, but he does so on the back of limited testing aboard the factory car.

Suninen completed Lõuna-Eesti Ralli in Estonia last weekend and has driven a hybrid Rally1 car for three and a half days prior to that. Such is the difference from Rally2 cars, Suninen feels young drivers are more up against it than ever to crack the very top of the sport.

“It’s good for me to do [the] test event,” Suninen told DirtFish, “because Rally1 is still a bit step – it’s bigger than it was with the World Rally Car before, because of the hybrid.

“There’s such a change in philosophy from the R5 and Rally2 cars. In those cars, you are braking on your maximum, like you would in the old World Rally Car, but now with Rally1 you have to go a bit against those rules you have known for so long.

“Now you are using the braking for regeneration. It changes a lot.

“Looking to the future, I think we [will] have even less and less young drivers because of the test limitations – the amount of driving a young driver would be able to do is not enough in my point of view.

“Somehow I think it could be an idea for somebody to make a plan to bring back more testing for the younger drivers – maybe we could try to bring another car to the manufacturer teams. OK, we know testing time is short, so maybe data taken from a fourth car for a junior driver could be valuable.”

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Suninen added that rising costs of cars had all-but prohibited the sort of movement from young drivers showing well in their national championships to find the budget for a shot at the WRC superstars.

“When you look to the costs of cars to hire now, it’s so difficult,” he said.

“As a youngster now, if you get one rally, just one event, the pressure is so high. If you have a technical issue, a puncture or something then your race is done and your chance is gone.”