Suninen’s CER entry is telling for his WRC future

Dani Sordo looked like an obvious bet for the all-new event, but Teemu going instead makes the 2024 drive his to lose


Dani Sordo paused. He thought about the question. Then he momentarily pretended he might not have heard it. Then he answered.

Sort of.

“I don’t know,” he said.

“Maybe Japan.”

And with that, and with a grin, he was gone. You sort of knew that he knew, that we knew he might have just dropped a little bit of a bombshell.

Step forward Teemu Suninen: your ticket to the rest of your World Rally Championship career has been stamped and you’re good to go.

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Hyundai naming Suninen for Chile was telegraphed. After a couple of strong performances in Estonia and Finland (fifth and fourth), he was the sensible choice for the WRC’s return to some of the faster forests of south America. But Central Europe Rally, that was a surprise. Surely that was Sordo territory?

Granted, CER’s a new one, but it’s an all-asphalt event anchored in Passau, Germany. Last time the WRC was in Germany, Sordo was pretty handy on that event. Remember 2013? An emotional maiden world championship win for the likeable Spaniard. He’d started Germany 15 times and finished on the podium on seven occasions.

If it’s asphalt in central Europe, Dani’s the man to have.


So, to take Suninen is a surprise. And, potentially, a serious indication of where Hyundai’s thinking sits for next season. Coming out of Finland, my point was a straightforward one: if Hyundai was serious about Suninen, he had to be put on asphalt to see what he could do on a rally outside of his comfort zone.

That process starts this weekend with the Bucklige Welt Rallye in Austria. He and Mikko Markkula will run Hyundai’s test i20 N Rally1 across the two-day, 12 stage, 85-mile event not far from the Hungarian border. Faced with a plethora of Rally2 competition (much of it well wheeled by talented locals like Simon Wagner) we should ignore the result. Suninen will win at a canter.

The important thing is his feeling and his feedback coming out of the event.

There were dissenting voices that expected more pace from Suninen in Estonia and Finland, but I couldn’t disagree more.


Suninen was fifth behind his two team-mates in Tartu. Dropping it wasn’t an option while Thierry Neuville and Esapekka Lappi were both engaged in a battle with Toyota man Elfyn Evans. If either of the full-timers had pinged their i20 to the trees, Suninen’s points would be vital.

Even more so in Finland after Lappi’s retirement. Suninen did what he was asked to do without putting a mark on the car.

Giving him the keys in CER is a vote of confidence in the Finn at what could be a vital time, should the race for the manufacturers’ championship start to tighten towards its conclusion.

Right now, you’d have to say the 2024 Hyundai seat is Suninen’s to lose.