How WRC commentary changed Suninen’s perspective

Following WRC events from afar is reshaping Teemu Suninen's approach to rallying


Teemu Suninen has a bit of a ‘what if’ reputation in the World Rally Championship.

What if he hadn’t spun on Lempää during Rally Finland 2017, when he had a chance to score a WRC podium in only his second appearance in the top class? What if he hadn’t dumped it into a Hagfors snowbank while fighting for the lead of Rally Sweden in 2019? And what if he hadn’t pushed quite so hard on the opening stage of the 2021 Monte Carlo Rally, where he went from fastest in the splits to down a bank and into the trees in the blink of an eye?

His long-running relationship with M-Sport came to an end in 2021, followed by a switch to Hyundai that’s so far been a mix of Rally1 and Rally2 stints.

Suninen needed, by his own admission, a clean break, a fresh start somewhere else, after years of throwing the kitchen sink at trying to prove himself as one of the world’s best rally drivers but not quite managing to pull it off.

The last two years have been about gaining a new perspective. And some of the lessons Suninen has learned haven’t been from being inside the car at all. To view the bigger picture, he needed to see more. And he did that with C-MORE, the Finnish broadcaster of WRC rounds.

When he wasn’t in the car, he was co-commentating as the drivers that were once his direct rivals at rallying’s pinnacle battled on without him. That experience has changed his perspective.

“I have gotten older, I have been able to grow up a bit and see things differently,” Suninen told DirtFish.

“When I commentated rallying on TV, it changed my point of view of how I’m following the rallies because as a driver, the picture we can see is quite narrow.


Suninen was on track for a podium on last year's Rally Chile, before a mistake on the final day ended his hopes

“I see it more openly now, understanding the full picture of what’s happening generally with everyone. The rally days are really long, a lot can happen, with a lot of lot ups and downs. In the end, the final time matters; then after that, you have to be first.”

It’s easy to have a short-term focus behind the wheel. Getting sucked into a battle with the driver closest to you in the standings, being keen not to lose position in the here and now, is a common pitfall of an ambitious young driver. Most of M-Sport’s youngsters have been guilty of it at some point.

Pace is one thing. Since he first stepped foot in a Fiesta WRC, it was clear Suninen had natural speed. But consistency was sometimes absent. Following WRC events from start to finish as an analyst, not a driver, has made Suninen re-think how to approach driving once he sets foot into the cockpit.


The Finn hopes his time spent behind a microphone will help him behind the wheel

“It’s forgetting all the things that have happened in the previous stage and just focusing on the next one,” said Suninen. “It’s about going stage by stage but also knowing that to win the rally, you need to be delivering good results for three or four days.”

Suninen remains at a career crossroads. He’s clinging onto a thus-far partial WRC2 program this year to stay active and remain visible to teams at the top level.

There’s no doubt he’d rather be driving than commentating. But taking a step back into the comms box may transpire to be what was needed to take two steps forward in the driving seat.