Suninen completes his first ever Rally1 test

There was plenty of speculation surrounding the identity of the driver undertaking the test

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Teemu Suninen must have felt like The Stig from the BBC’s Top Gear.

As soon as pictures emerged from Hyundai’s development test at its permanent test site in Finland this week, the speculation began. Who was it behind the wheel?

Zoom in close enough, and a helmet could be made out. One with spots on it. One just like Suninen’s. But was it really him?

“Yeah… I can tell you that it’s been me,” Suninen confessed. “So the pictures and speculations are right!”

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Suninen has spent his time driving a Rally2 Hyundai this season, so this three-day test – shared with Thierry Neuville – was his first taste of the Rally1 car.

With Ott Tänak’s departure from the team after next weekend’s Rally Japan, a spot was open that Suninen was only too happy to fill.

“I just got the request from Hyundai ‘would I be ready to do the testing’ and I was like ‘of course I’m ready.'”

Naturally, he came away from it with a big smile on his face.

“Yeah I enjoyed,” he said. “It was nice to be back in the powerful car with a lot of aerodynamics and then also to feel the hybrid power.”

The question that remains is whether Suninen will be feeling hybrid power far more regularly in 2023. But it’s one that he’s unable to answer for now.

“My goal is still to get to Rally1, full-time, but I would be happy to be a part-time driver and I know that I can be fast, especially on fast gravel rallies which I know well and also Portugal/Sardinia type of rallies,” he said.

“But I believe why Hyundai let me drive is they are trusting my skills to develop the car and help them and also help them to develop the Rally1 car.

“It’s difficult to say about the future what’s going to happen, but at least these are some positive steps.”

Suninen’s immediate future is Rally Japan though as he boards a flight tomorrow, where he’s got a WRC2 win from Spain to defend.

“It’s a really special rally. I was there for the candidate rally to do the recce so I have some clue where we are going.

“Most of the stages are in a different direction or different roads but it will be a huge challenge for the drivers because it’s so narrow, there are so many corners, it’s so technical and there’s no room for any errors.

“I have always said that if people think we have a lot of corners in Corsica, it’s still a step further [in Japan].”

Words:Luke Barry