Young Finnish hotshot Teemu Suninen will step up to an eight-round World Rally Car programme this season with reigning WRC champions M-Sport Ford World Rally Team.
The 23-year-old will begin his campaign alongside world champion Sébastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans at February’s Rally Sweden in the British squad’s third Fiesta.
He will also compete on gravel rounds in Mexico, Portugal and Italy during the first half of the season. His home event in Finland will lead into more dirt rounds in Turkey and Great Britain, before his year ends on mixed surface roads in Spain.
The 23-year-old made a startling impression on his debut at the WRC’s highest level in 2017, winning a stage in Poland and almost claiming a podium in Finland.
Suninen’s programme was confirmed at the Autosport International show on Friday, 24 hours after the 2018 championship was launched at the high-profile Birmingham event.
“The plan is to start those rallies in a relaxed state of mind. There’s no now or never situation or anything like that and no need to focus on our position in the drivers’ championship. We’ll just take it rally by rally and make the most of every event we do,” he said.
“We need to ensure we make the most of this opportunity, and that is exactly what we plan to do. I’m really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of a top-specification world rally car and aim to learn as much as I can.”
He will gain further experience with outings in a Fiesta R5 at Rallye Monte-Carlo and ADAC Rallye Deutschland in the WRC 2 support category.
Suninen is at the forefront of a new generation of Finnish rally stars and the latest in a long line of top youngsters to emerge from the M-Sport stable.
“There is no denying that Teemu is a very talented young driver, and a future rally winner,” said M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson.
“With eight rallies this year he’ll get the vital experience needed to develop his career at this level and I would not be at all be surprised if we saw him challenging for a podium or two.”