Guest column: Jarmo Lehtinen

Teemu Suninen caused a surprise this week when he announced the experienced Jarmo Lehtinen would return to the WRC’s top level for the first time since 2014 and co-drive him for the rest of the season. Here Lehtinen reveals what sparked his shock comeback.

“Why am I coming back? That seems quite a popular question right now. So, I can make the answer here.

There are a few reasons. Firstly, I believe in Teemu. I’ve worked with him doing his gravel notes for a while now and I believe he has a lot of potential. It’s an exciting opportunity to work with him starting in Sardinia this week.

I’ve got to be honest, when Mikko Hirvonen and I stopped competing full-time at the end of 2014, I really knew I wasn’t completely ready to walk away from co-driving. I still loved being in the car and competing. I told myself I would take a sabbatical; take a year or so off, then come back and see what’s possible.

I started working with Tommi Mäkinen at Toyota Gazoo Racing and suddenly three years had flown by. More recently I’ve been working with WRC Promoter and that’s been really exciting. But I never forgot the competition.

I did some work with Hiroki Arai last year and we did a couple of WRC rounds together in a Ford Fiesta R5. At the end of last season, Mikko and I did RallyLegend in a Ford Focus RS WRC and I knew the passion to be back was still there.

But when I got the call about working with Teemu for the rest of this year, I must admit there were a couple of sleepless nights. What to do?

Go for it.

Lehtinen is familiar with Teemu Suninen's pace note system

Now I’m really excited. I’ve been working a lot with the onboards and with Teemu’s notes for Sardinia from last year. It’s really helpful that I’ve been doing the asphalt rallies with him as gravel note crew co-driver as that means I’ m already familiar with his pace notes. They are quite similar to the ones Mikko and I used, so I shouldn’t have any issues.

It might take some time to find the rhythm again, but I’ve done some testing in one of these latest generation World Rally Cars, so I have a good idea of the speed we’ll be going – and it wasn’t as if Mikko was ever driving slowly!

It’s nice to be working with M-Sport again, Mikko and I had so many good memories from that team and it’s really good to have familiar faces around me.

As the start of Sardinia comes close, I have to be honest and say there are some nerves coming. But they’re good nerves. I’m not worried about the physical side of things, even though Sardinia is a tough event. I’ve stayed in shape and this won’t be a problem.

I just want to get started now. How will it be? Let’s see at shakedown, but for sure, I will be giving it my best shot for Teemu and the team."

Head to WRC+ to watch All Live from Rally Italia Sardegna, including every stage broadcast live, breaking service park news and expert studio analysis.


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