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WRC Rally Estonia

Suninen: Estonia WRC comeback drive proved “I belong at this level"

Teemu Suninen feels his drive to fifth on his Rally1 debut in Estonia last weekend proved he belongs at the top level of the World Rally Championship.

Teemu Suninen, Mikko Markkula, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Suninen returned to rallying’s top tier last weekend after receiving a call up from Hyundai to drive the third i20 N Rally1 that has been shared between Dani Sordo and the late Craig Breen this season. 

Estonia marked Suninen’s first top-level WRC outing since standing in for Ott Tanak at Hyundai for the 2021 Rally Monza season finale after parting company with M-Sport mid-season during a turbulent campaign

Despite limited mileage behind the wheel of the WRC’s latest generation hybrid machines, the Finn impressed throughout to finish fifth ahead of M-Sport's Pierre-Louis Loubet, Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta, and the recovering M-Sport Puma of Tanak, who was hit by a five-minute penalty for changing an engine after shakedown.

Reflecting on challenging period of his career, which included a drop down to the WRC2 category last year, Suninen believes an emotional drive in Estonia has proved his talent. 

Insight: Five things you may have missed in Estonia

“I think it was a good show that I belong at this level,” Suninen told Autosport. 

“I really like to work at this level, so I want to do everything perfectly and at these big factory teams we have enough people to focus on all areas and have everything perfect. 

“The team is helping me with the driving, and the amount of data I’m getting is just huge. I like to work in that way.  

“It is never easy to jump to a car that Craig was driving. Everyone loved him and how fast he was.

Teemu Suninen, Hyundai World Rally Team

Teemu Suninen, Hyundai World Rally Team

Photo by: Romain Thuillier / Hyundai Motorsport

“Of course I wanted to be somewhere close and I believe at least I managed to work on his level. It was an emotional moment.

“It is very different car from any of the rally cars. It has a lot of aero, a really powerful engine and the hybrid. 

“The hybrid changes things a lot and it changes the basics [of] driving, which is what we have learned in the last 15 years. I feel lucky I was able to adapt and learn fast to get to this level. I think I managed to do what I was asked to do.”

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Suninen’s performance has raised expectations ahead of his second outing driving the i20 N Rally1 car at Rally Finland next week.

“I believe the expectations are getting higher and higher every time I drive,” he added. 

"I have to concentrate on the steps that I’m taking but I’m still the third car in Finland. I want to improve my pace step by step and bring my routine to the level of the others.”  

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