M-Sport team principal Richard Millener has given Teemu Suninen a very straightforward objective on his return to the WRC’s second-tier at this week’s Croatia Rally. He wants the Finn to win.
Suninen is tackling a mixed program through 2021, with selected events in a Ford Fiesta WRC and the remainder in a Ford Fiesta Rally2 (when Adrien Fourmaux takes the World Rally Car seat).
Suninen is back to WRC2 for the first time since the 2018 Monte Carlo Rally. Millener is confident that the last three years at the sharp end of WRC competition will leave the 27-year-old in a competitive position when it comes to taking on a strong WRC2 field.
“It’s not easy to switch between cars,” Millener told DirtFish, “we know that. But that’s a skill which can be learned and Croatia will help with that.
“We’re trying to put together a full program for Teemu this year, it makes sense to have him on all the rallies if possible. It’s not possible in a [WRC] car on every event.
“The objective for him in Croatia is to show how good the Fiesta [Rally2] is and, of course, we want him to win. The competition is tight in WRC2, but that’s going to keep him competitive and sharp.”
Suninen tested in Croatia earlier this week, with Millener admitting the conditions weren’t perfect.
“Teemu’s test was wet,” he added. “The other guys got some wet and dry running. The weather’s going to be tricky to call this week.”
Andreas Mikkelsen leads the WRC2 competition in his Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo, but the Zagreb-based event marks Mads Østberg’s first round of the season as he looks to defend his 2020 WRC2 title.
The Norwegian drove a latest-specification Citroën C3 Rally2 at Saturday’s Therwoolin Boldogko Rally in Hungary.
Østberg led the event into the final stage when a puncture cost him victory over WRC2 rival Nikolay Gryazin.
Østberg said: “We had to stop and change the tire in the stage. We are running with new [Pirelli] tires and I need to understand the limits of the tire. I guess we did that today and we need to learn from that.
“We had good speed with good competition,” he added, “I was able to show the pace and be well prepared for next weekend. I’m very disappointed to lose the win, but big congratulations to Nikolay Gryazin who won the rally.”