Personally, I am having a great time following the progress of Toyota Motorsport, the 2017 season will be here before long and it is great to see this team growing in size and seriousness at a very promising pace. After all, it’s April already and before the year is over I believe Toyota will want to see its senior line-up completed or at least sketched out. Mind you, we don’t actually know what Toyota’s plans are, it is perfectly possible they will not do what Volkswagen did, so it is possible Toyota will only start working with their main line-up drivers after the last rally of the 2016 season. It all depends on their initial ambitions and for now we still don’t know anything about that – perhaps they’ll be fine with 2017 being a learning year or maybe they want to chase wins and titles right from the start. At this point, I am not even sure it is absolutely mandatory to hire a top WRC driver very early, hoping he would be able to help the development of the car. Toyota does seem to have a very versatile and capable team of drivers, from superexperienced seniors to ambitious youngsters, at least one of which will probably find a spot in (one of) Toyota’s main WRC team(s). Then there are (semi)retired drivers with recent WRC experience, Toyota could ask them to join their ranks and boost their development team. While I do believe that, ideally, Toyota should hire main drivers as soon as possible and build a team around them, alternative approach may end up being more optimal. We know Toyota will not join WRC before 2017 and no amount of test work done by A class driver can compare to that driver actually competing – so whoever will be leading Toyota’s WRC assault should spend his 2015 and 2016 competing and let the test & development drivers do their job on the car.
Today, Toyota released a confirmation of their junior driver line-up, adding another name to the list. In January they announced Eric Camilli as one of their test and development drivers and today we learned that Eric will be joined by Finland’s Teemu Suninen who is 21, is fast, ambitious and methodical. Oh, and he also won the WRC 3 class on his WRC debut in Rally Finland last year.
It’s exciting times with a new team growing before our eyes. They’re also doing a fine job of keeping us informed of their progress. Now, who will be Toyota’s main drivers, I wonder…
TOYOTA MOTORSPORT GmbH COMPLETES JUNIOR DRIVER LINE-UP
TOYOTA Motorsport GmbH (TMG) has completed the line-up for its junior driver development scheme, which aims to reveal future World Rally Championship (WRC) contenders.
Finland’s Teemu Suninen is the second member of the TMG programme for 2015, alongside France’s Eric Camilli, who was announced in January. Both will develop their skills in a variety of cars and events as they expand their rally experience.
Teemu, 21, has forged a reputation as a promising talent following his rally debut in 2013. He made his mark in the 2014 Rally Finland when, on his WRC debut, he won the WRC 3 class.
Eric, 27, is a relatively late starter in rallying but has already turned heads in one-make cups along with second place in the Junior class at Rally France last year. He also won the prestigious Rallye Jeunes FFSA driver search in 2012, following in the footsteps of recent French World Champions.
In addition to competing in WRC 2 and WRC 3, Eric and Teemu will test the Yaris WRC as they gain vital experience behind the wheel of a WRC car. Alongside the experienced duo of Stéphane Sarrazin and Sebastian Lindholm, they will push the Yaris WRC to its limits on a range of surfaces across Europe this year.
The programme also aims to develop the drivers’ existing skills in terms of personal fitness, communication, media relations and team work.
Yoshiaki Kinoshita, President: “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.”
Eric Camilli: “It’s fantastic for me to be a part of an organisation like TMG and I would like to thank them for the trust they have shown in me. The project is incredibly exciting and it’s a great opportunity for me, as well as for Teemu. I know I still have plenty to learn in rally and I think the TMG junior driver development scheme is the perfect way for me to gain more experience; not only in terms of driving but all the other aspects of being a WRC driver. I am fully motivated to make the most of this chance.”
Teemu Suninen: “I am very proud to join the TMG junior driver development scheme. TOYOTA has such a strong reputation and history in rally; it’s a great honour to be selected by TMG to be a part of their return. I can’t wait to get started; I will give my maximum to repay the faith shown in me. My target is to learn as much as possible, because I am still early in my rally career. I want to grow with the team and I’m looking forward to working alongside Stéphane, Sebastian and Eric. There is a positive and professional atmosphere within the team which is very motivating.”
Eric Camilli Profile
Born 6 September 1987 in Nice, France
Lives Nice, France
Marital status Single
Hobbies Sport, mountain biking, music
Favourite rally Rally Monte Carlo
Best achievement Fourth place on 2014 Tour de Corse (top S2000 driver)
2009 French Suzuki Cup: n/c (1 rally)
2012 Rally Jeunes FFSA winner
2013 French Rally Championship: 8th (2 wins, 4 second places in Citroen Junior class)
Member of FFSA driver academy
2014 Rally France (Junior WRC): 2nd
Tour de Corse (European Rally Championship): 4th (1st in S2000 class)
Volant Peugeot: 3rd (1 win)
2015 TMG Junior Driver Development Programme
Teemu Suninen Profile
Born 1. February 1994 in Tuusula, Finland
Lives Jokela, Finland
Marital status Single
Hobbies Fitness training
Favourite rally Rally Finland
Best achievement WRC Finland – 1st in WRC3 class
2009 Finnish Karting Championship (KF2 class): 2nd
2010 European Karting Championship (KF2 class): 3rd
Finnish Karting Championship (KF2 class): 1st
2011 SKUSA SuperNationals Kart Championship (KF2 class): 1st
2012 European Rallycross Championship: 8th in S1600 class (1 win)
2013 F-Cup, B-Junior Class: 1st
2014 Finnish Rally Championship, SM 3 class: 4th (1 win)
Fiesta Sport Trophy Finland: 1st
WRC3: 8th (1 rally, 1 win)
2015 TMG Junior Driver Development Programme