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Suninen to drive Rally1 car as Hyundai reveals WRC driver development scheme

Teemu Suninen will pilot Hyundai's third World Rally Championship entry in Estonia and Finland as the marque revealed plans for a revamped driver development programme.

Teemu Suninen and Emil Lindholm, Hyundai Motorsport

Photo by: Hyundai Motorsport

The South Korean marque has relaunched a driver development programme as previously predicted by Autosport, with Suninen and reigning WRC2 champion Emil Lindholm the first drivers selected to be part of the initiative.

The scheme, which was first launched in 2017, aims to develop the next wave of Rally1 drivers.

Suninen will step into the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid to replace the late Craig Breen in Rally Estonia in July and Rally Finland In August, while Lindholm will switch from driving a Toksport Skoda to a Hyundai i20 Rally2 for those events.

As part of the driver development plan, Suninen will also undertake development tests driving the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 and Hyundai i20 N Rally2, as well as participate in pre-event rollouts.

Plans for Dani Sordo, who has been driving the third Rally1 i20N with Breen this year, remain unaffected for the rest of the season. The Spaniard will pilot the third car at next week's Safari Rally Kenya.

The rest of Suninen's WRC plan will be communicated in due course. Fabrizio Zaldivar will continue his WRC2 programme with Hyundai as planned.

Teemu Suninen, Hyundai Motorsport

Teemu Suninen, Hyundai Motorsport

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

"This is a great opportunity to get back to top tier cars and I have been really missing it," said Suninen, who last drove in WRC's top tier at Rally Monza, where he stood in for Ott Tanak at Hyundai.

"Estonia and Finland have previously been strong rallies for me, but it will be a big challenge to learn the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 hybrid and the hybrid system with limited testing.

"Both rallies are known as sprint rallies where you need 110% confidence and to push flat out from the first corner to get good results, so that will ask for a lot of patience from me and only time will show our approach.

"My goal is to learn the car step by step and to gradually show more pace and bring good points for the team."

Lindholm and co-driver Reeta Hamalainen currently sit fourth in the WRC2 standings driving for Toksport, but the 26-year-old Lindholm says the decision to switch to Hyundai mid-season is the right step to progress his rally career.

"I'm really excited about the opportunity to become part of one of the most accomplished and successful rally teams globally," said Lindholm.

"My decision to join Hyundai Motorsport stems primarily from the brand's proven track record of success in rallying and especially their commitment to nurture young talent.

"Their clear dedication to rallying aligns perfectly with my own passion and ambition. I see Rally Estonia as the perfect starting point for my journey with the team; it's been a strong event for both myself and the team in the past which brings me a good deal of confidence.

"I firmly believe that we have every opportunity to step on the podium multiple times this season."

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Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul added: "The Hyundai Motorsport Driver Development Programme is not here to fill a gap, instead it is a strategic platform to ensure that Hyundai has multiple choices and options among the young drivers out there.

"We already have an exciting stable of talent, featuring Teemu and Emil, and I'm looking forward to supporting their development as we start to build the programme further."

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