Teemu Suninen couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity he’s been afforded by Hyundai Motorsport. To be given the keys to a factory i20 N Rally1 on an asphalt event – in preference to one of the world’s fastest Tarmac drivers in Dani Sordo – is a big deal. And the Central Europe Rally could play a big part in the Finn’s future.
But it’s not going to be easy. Far from it.
Suninen went to Austria last weekend hoping for an early fall. Instead, his i20 N Rally1 asphalt debut was greeted with more summer. More sunshine.
“The weather was good for the spectators,” he told DirtFish. “It was sunny and quite warm. This was making it quite a bit easier for me to step into the car, but I would have been fine with some tricky conditions. Central Europe will be quite a lot later – it’s five or six weeks and conditions will be quite different then.
“I have shown really good pace on smooth Tarmac with the stable grip level in places like Corsica or Spain, even Germany. But Central Europe could be a bigger challenge than Monte Carlo. This year’s Monte was relatively straightforward – I was ice-note crew for [Esapekka] Lappi and in the end there were not so many marks for the ice or the snow.
“The pictures what I have seen from the [CER] stages, it seems quite tricky and then I spoke to the locals in Austria and they told me the stages could be quite different with some fast places and then some narrow, dirty places – it will be a big challenge.”
Suninen’s already at one with the Hyundai team, having run well and helped in the development of the Rally2 car and then bagged a fourth and fifth overall from the summer’s fast rallies in Estonia and Finland.
Running him on asphalt is a big opportunity.
“I think it is,” he said. “It could be a good chance for me. Last weekend, I was impressed with the car.
“I had done some roll outs before on Tarmac, but nothing like this. It was very good. Coming from the slow corners, the exit really kicks you. On the gravel, you need to be exiting the corner at more than, maybe, 100kph to avoid getting a lot of wheelspin. On the Tarmac, it’s a lot less and with the full hybrid boost, it was really impressive.
“I think in the twisty places, the speed’s going to be very high in CER – these cars collect the speed so quickly.”
Before CER, Suninen’s bound for next week’s Rally Chile. Before Chile he’s bound for Barcelona and a Rally2 test.
“I’m busy,” he said. “It’s how I like it.”
Go well in CER and he could be even busier next year.