Adjusting to a new rally car is never easy. But Teemu Suninen’s first test in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC he will unexpectedly drive at next weekend’s Monza Rally went very well indeed.
David Evans caught up with the former M-Sport driver to find out more about his preparations for what could be a very important event in relaunching Suninen’s World Rally Championship career:
Tell us what the first runs in a completely new car are like.
Of course in the beginning you are taking the driving a little bit carefully, not to make any mistakes. The main thing you want to do is to understand what is the car going to do and how does it drive in different situations.
When you have limited time, you are trying to learn as much as you can as quickly as possible. To do this, sometimes you have to play with the car a little bit. You drive it a little bit differently, try to make it slide more just to see what happens.
When you are watching on a test like this, sometimes the driving doesn’t look as smooth as you might expect – but you are sort of taking the car past the limit to see where does it break traction or how does it feel when grip is compromised.
For sure, you are doing this in some of the more safer places in the stage. Being able to do this in the test helps you as a driver – it’s like reassurance.
How did you find Pirelli’s asphalt tires for the World Rally Car?
Good. I didn’t drive these before this season, so I was interested to see how they were feeling. The road was dry and we had nice sunny conditions, but the morning there were some damp corners and some humid places.
The soft tire can take [cope with] some of the humid conditions. I think we have good options. If it’s full dry and warm weather then we could use the harder compound. It was interesting.
We saw lots of snow last year – would changeable weather give you an opportunity?
Honestly, I would prefer to have the dry conditions. When you are learning the new car, it’s definitely better to be like this – especially as the test was mainly in the dry.
From the test, I could feel that the car would be strong in the dry conditions and this is what I would like to drive in. It’s also the best chance for me to show what I can do on the Tarmac. I like to drive on these asphalt rallies and I have good speed for them.
What’s the aim for Monza?
I will listen to my bosses. If they are telling me they want me to come home with the car as the third Hyundai and finish on a good position then I do that. If they tell me they want me to try to challenge for the higher positions and fight with the top drivers then I can try to do this also.
I know it won’t be so easy: some of the drivers have been in the car for five years and I’ve done one day! I will do what I am told to do. I’m just very happy to be in Monza in this car.
It’s also your fourth team in four rallies…
That’s correct. I was with M-Sport, then Movisport in Finland, [Hyundai Motorsport N] in Spain and now main Hyundai Motorsport team in Monza.
I have to learn a few different people and a few new names, but it’s good experience to be able to see the way these teams work.
Did you get much help from your Hyundai Motorsport team-mates Thierry Neuville or Dani Sordo?
I was with Thierry for half of his test. That was good, useful. We are sharing all the information from the test – it was good to see the teamwork in Hyundai.
It was also helping me to know who is who before we come to the rally.