Tuesday | 29 Jul 2014

Finland countdown: One to Watch

We turn the spotlight on a 20-year-old Finn who is competing in only his second season of rallying and starts a WRC event for the first time. Step forward Teemu Suninen.

So what’s the fuss about?

We don’t want to put the pressure on someone so young and inexperienced but those in the know reckon Suninen could be the next big thing in rallying in Finland – a country that knows what it takes to reach the top.

Why does he have the ability to follow in the footsteps of Finland’s greats?
He was pretty useful in karting as a teenager and two years ago won the Super 1600 category at Germany’s round of the European Rallycross Championship. Now he’s turning heads in a Fiesta R2 in the Finnish Rally Championship and won his drive here in a competition organised by event promoter AKK Sports.

Who picked him for that?
The judges included former WRC event winner Michèle Mouton, Jarmo Lehtinen (co-driver to Mikko Hirvonen) and WRC 2 driver Jari Ketomaa, who is mentoring him. They rate him highly.

Teemu Suninen - ready for the off. Photos by Jani Kekoni

What’s he driving?
He’s stepping up to a Citroen DS3 R3T and Ketomaa helped him get to grips with it during a 70km test. “Jari helped me with the DMACK tyres and suspension set-up. I had a problem with the rear of the car at the entry to corners. There was no grip and I didn’t want to change the whole suspension set-up. Jari knew straight away the rear springs were too soft. His experience was really good for me and I really trust in him.” said Suninen.

Will he cope with stepping up from a normally aspirated R2 car to a turbocharged R3 vehicle?
He’s not concerned. “The suspension and gearbox are more advanced and the speeds will be higher but I’ve driven a S1600 rallycross car so I’m used to more power. The most challenging thing will be the jumps. There haven’t been many jumps on the rallies in which I’ve competed,” he said. 

So getting the pace notes right during the recce will be crucial?
Yes. And you know what? Suninen has only driven seven pace note rallies in his life......

And the pressure is on?
He doesn’t think so. “I had big pressure when I was karting but made my best results under pressure.”

And the future?
Who knows – but Suninen views this as a big career break. “I can sell my skills and speed and show how fast I can learn,” he said.

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