Toyota’s few Finns – the full story
Kindly reproduced from http://www.maxrally.com/2015/03/31/toyotas-few-finns-the-full-story
Toyota is, undoubtedly, a giant of global rallying. And Finland? Well that’s where the sport’s giants are born. Surprising then that so few Finns have taken to the world stage in Japanese machinery.
And fewer still have conquered the world in it.
Teemu Suninen is only the fourth Finn to sign for the official squad – and number three is his fellow Yaris WRC tester Sebastian Lindholm.
It would, however, be completely wrong to suggest that Finland has never celebrated with Toyota. Juha Kankkunen’s nine World Rally Championship event wins and his 1993 drivers’ title, taken in a Celica Turbo 4WD have seen to that. And KKK really was part of the furniture in Cologne, spending nine years (including 1996, when he remained an employee despite Toyota being banned from the world championship) in three separate spells with the firm.
Kankkunen aside, however, and the famous blue and white flag was rarely seen on the side of a Celica or Corolla.
Hannu Mikkola won the 1975 1000 Lakes with a Group 2 Corolla for the then Uppsala-based Andersson Motorsport, Ove Andersson’s forerunner to Toyota Team Europe.
And those are the only two Finns to have won in a Toyota.
Marcus Gronholm was probably the closest to following Kankkunen. He drove a factory Celica on the 1992 1000 Lakes, went fastest on the first stage and into the trees soon after. The best he could manage, results-wise, would be a brace of fourth places (Finland, 1996 and Argentina, 1997) in the long-nose and horribly handing ST205 version of the GT-Four.
Despite a close relationship with Andersson – and being an integral part of the development and early running of the Corolla WRC – Gronholm never made it to TTE’s top table.
Markku Alen switched from Subaru to Toyota for 1992 and 1993, but even the great one could only manage a podium (third) on the 1000 Lakes in his first season and the Safari runners-up spot in his second.
At 54, Gronholm’s cousin Lindholm is unlikely to be the third Finn to win for Toyota. But, 33 years his junior, Suninen very well might be. Especially if the Yaris WRC turns out anywhere near as good as the previous stage-bound hardware coming out of Cologne.
Suninen has, by the way, signed for Toyota Motorsport and will be running alongside fellow junior – the, er, 27-year-old Frenchman – Eric Camilli.
Both Suninen and Camilli impressed TMG president Yoshiaki Kino****a at last year’s junior driver test in Italy.
Kino****a said: “We are delighted to have Eric and Teemu as part of the TMG junior driver programme this year. We’ve been working with both drivers since the beginning of the year and we have been very impressed.
“Both have huge potential in rally; they are extremely fast but also intelligent and methodical. These are qualities which are necessary to succeed in this discipline. We tested several young drivers late last year and Eric and Teemu both stood out as having strong potential so we expect to grow as a team together with them.
“It is an exciting time for all of us and we are looking forward to taking the next steps on our journey together with Eric and Teemu.”
But will Teemu’s next step be as Finland’s third WRC winner in a Toyota? Only time will tell. If his one and only WRC result so far is anything to go by – a WRC3 win on his debut in a DS 3 R3T in Finland last year – he very well might be.