M-Sport team principal Richard Millener says there is still time for Teemu Suninen to prove he deserves to be part of the team’s 2022 World Rally Championship line-up, starting with a strong performance on the Ypres Rally this weekend.
Like team-mate Adrien Fourmaux, Suninen has split his efforts this season between the Ford Fiesta WRC and the WRC2-spec Fiesta Rally2, but has struggled to put together an error-free event so far in 2021.
He has recorded just one top-three stage time this season and, though he took a best result of sixth on last month’s Rally Estonia, he finished over seven minutes adrift of winner Kalle Rovanperä.
Despite talk of driver movement within the team for next year – the first of the new Rally1 hybrid regulations – Millener was keen to stress that Suninen is still in with a shout of being part of the team’s plans.
Speaking during M-Sport’s pre-event media session in Ypres, Millener said: “Obviously, he [Suninen] is in the R5 this weekend and we’ve been clear to say that there’s potential there to show what he can do in that car, and we need to get performances in both cars.
“Switching between cars is difficult, we know that, but some of the other teams are doing the same thing.
“The reason we are still running Teemu in the rallies is that there is the discussion to be had whether we use him for next season or not. If it was clear that [he] wouldn’t be there, then we would stop altogether.”
We want to see him winning here. He’s got the potential and the know-how to do it and he’s good in these tricky conditionsRich Millener
Millener also said Suninen has the speed to take the WRC2 win this weekend, noting that his prowess in variable asphalt conditions could play a factor in building confidence in Belgium.
“He’s shown very good speed, in the R5, and obviously we want to see him winning here,” Millener explained.
“He’s got the potential and the know-how to do it and he’s good in these tricky conditions, so we’re still taking it one rally at a time with Teemu.
“Estonia didn’t go as he would have wanted, I’m sure, but the plan was always to put Adrien in the WRC car here.
“I don’t think there’s anything to be read into at the moment, compared to where we were at the end of Estonia. This was kind of our plan going forward for this rally.”
Suninen is the leading WRC2 driver on the Ypres entry list but will face stiff competition from the likes of Jari Huttunen and Oliver Solberg – who will debut Hyundai’s new i20 N Rally2 – and Nikolay Gryazin.