What does Suninen’s CER performance mean for his future?

The Finn feels he learned a lot in his first WRC rally on asphalt since 2021

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Hyundai driver Teemu Suninen was satisfied with his performance on a first top-level asphalt outing in the World Rally Championship for two years, at a crucial time as the team considers the final pieces of its 2024 lineup.

Suninen finished sixth on the Central European Rally, his first sealed-surface event in a top-class car since substituting for Ott Tänak on the Monza Rally in 2021.

He briefly ran fifth after going second fastest on Knaus Tabbert Bayerischer Wald, the first German stage of the event on Saturday.

Suninen then lost out to Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta on the next stage, holding sixth position for the remainder of the rally despite going fourth fastest on the second run through Knaus Tabbert Bayerischer Wald when it was run in darkness.


“Generally the rally was good,” Suninen reflected. “I haven’t done one like this for two years, so I was thrown in the deep end!

“Every loop was different in terms of weather and conditions, so there was a lot of learning.

“I had good pace in places – like going second fastest on SS11 – but my experience wasn’t enough to adapt to the conditions of the car from the very first kilometer.

“I’d like to say a big thanks to the team, it was a great season. It was nice to jump in the car mid-season and take on this challenge; I think this is a good position to continue building on from here.

“I’m satisfied with the job I’ve done. I was pretty much where I expected to be on paper at what is the hardest rally for me on the calendar.”


Suninen has contested four WRC rallies in the Rally1 car, beginning with outings on two very familiar events, Rally Estonia and Rally Finland.

The 29-year-old Finn finished fifth and fourth on the two fast gravel rallies, then was running second in Chile when he crashed on the final day.

But it was his call-up for the asphalt Central European Rally that provided the biggest indication that Hyundai was evaluating Suninen for a role with the team in 2024.

His compatriot Esapekka Lappi is another candidate. But, after an impressive first half of the season, Lappi’s standing hasn’t been helped by crashing out of three of the past four events. And are the two Finns’ strengths and weaknesses complementary enough for them to share the drive with each other?

And what about Hyundai’s stated intention to place more focus on developing young talent into the next generation of world beaters?

Speaking at the post-event press conference, Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul appeared to suggest that that young-driver development may be deferred until other priorities have been addressed.

“I like there to be a fourth car,” said Abiteboul, “but success happens with planning, with organization, but also with prioritization.


“And I think the first thing we need to do is make sure that all three crews next year will have the car that they need and that will be the focus of the whole team.

“So in that respect, in that perspective, we may delay the plans for a fourth car. But clearly developing drivers, young drivers, with a fourth car is very much what we’d like to do. It’s all about timing.”

That timing may just offer Suninen – who will hit 30 the week after next year’s season-opening Monte Carlo Rally – a chance to build on the undoubted promise he has shown in his four outings this year.