Finns are known for their pragmatism. And while Teemu Suninen might have moved to Estonia, his levelheadedness is firmly rooted in Finland. After three years driving M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta WRC, being told he would be stepping down to a Rally2 car for some events this season might have knocked some driver’s confidence.
Instead, he went to Croatia, did the best job he could, bagged a very respectable top-10 finish overall and second in WRC2 and came out smiling.
You might have expected that smile to wane slightly when Adrien Fourmaux – the man replacing him in the Fiesta WRC for the Zagreb-based event – was the talk of the town in fifth place.
And it wouldn’t when he got the news that he would remain in the Fiesta Rally2 for the next round in Portugal. And Fourmaux would remain in the Fiesta WRC.
“I enjoyed the challenge in Croatia,” Suninen told DirtFish. “We went there after quite a difficult test, when basically it had been raining for a lot of the time and we had been driving in the downtime for the World Rally Car. So the test wasn’t so good for the event.”
Suninen had really been hoping for some solid seat time before the start of round three. Even though it was his first WRC round back in a Rally2 car since the Monte Carlo season-opener in 2018, team principal Richard Millener had made it clear he wanted a win.
“The biggest difference from World Rally Car to the R5 (Rally2) is the center diff,” said Suninen. “In R5, we don’t have one. And on rally like Croatia, where the grip is changing all of the time, it would have been good to get some feeling for the car.
When you see these Hyundai drivers doing these extra events in R5 car, I don’t think it’s all for the marketingTeemu Suninen
“When you don’t have the center diff, you have a lot of understeer on the asphalt roads. But OK. We finished second [in WRC2] and I’m happy for this result, I think it’s one of the best for the car.”
But the reason Suninen’s really happy is looking towards next season.
“With no centre differential in the 2022 cars, driving R5 is helping me,” he said. “When you see these Hyundai drivers doing these extra events in R5 car, I don’t think it’s all for the marketing and the testing – I think it’s for the mileage and driving [this style of car] as well.
“Next year, we don’t have the diff, we don’t have the paddle or so much the aero, so these R5 cars are a good way to prepare.”
Naturally, Suninen wants to be back in the Fiesta WRC as soon as possible (he’ll be there in Sardinia in June), but he says sticking with the Fiesta Rally2 will bring benefits.
“The main thing is to be driving,” he said. “Like I said, there is good comparison for the next year car in staying with the R5, so I really don’t mind so much to drive this [Rally2] car.”
Talk to the 27-year-old about Fourmaux’s debut, try to goad him into a response about the emotions involved with watching somebody sitting in a seat you’ve made your own for the last three years and he’s having none of it.
“Adrien did a good job,” he said. “I think his debut in World Rally Car was like mine and like EP’s [Esapekka Lappi], finishing top four or five and setting some top times.
“For me the frustration was just to know what I could do on Tarmac. When you look to Germany and Corsica, I was setting really strong times there. It would have been nice to drive [the Fiesta WRC], but I’m happy with what I did.”