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It was the perfect debut for a new partnership which paired Suninen’s youth, speed and ambition with Jarmo Lehtinen’s knowledge, experience, and continued desire to succeed. The result also marked Suninen’s second FIA World Rally Championship podium, and Lehtinen’s 70th!
Showcasing their pace with three fastest times on Friday, the pairing also demonstrated consistency and set the second or third fastest times on all of Saturday’s stages in the Fiesta which is fitted with NGK spark plugs and NTK Lambda sensors.
Instructed to bring the car safely home, the young Finn resisted the urge to push for second through the closing stages – but still managed to reduce the gap from 17 to 13.7 seconds. Then, third place became a career-best second when rally-leader Ott Tänak fell to fifth.
M-Sport team-mates Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin collected another strong haul of points to consolidate their fourth place in the championship.
The British pairing had been part of a Fiesta one-two through the early stages but fell adrift of the podium when the second pass of Castelsardo was cancelled for the cars behind – giving their rivals the benefit of fresher tyres, and a better road position the following day.
Locked in a battle for fourth place, which became a battle for third given the late drama, the Welshman missed out by less than a second. But despite forgoing a double podium for the Fiesta, he strengthens his championship position going into the summer break.
Teemu Suninen said: “I am really pleased with our performance this weekend. We had good speed with some fastest times on Friday, and then we were extremely consistent after that.”
He added: “I thought it would be a lot more challenging having a new voice in my ear, but actually this is the voice I heard whilst watching the rally on the TV as a kid – and that gave me some good memories and big smiles all weekend.”
Elfyn Evans said: “It’s really disappointing to have missed out by such a small margin. Looking back, the first stage of the loop was okay, but we gave far too much away in both passes of the power stage.
“It’s so rough in there and so easy to make a mistake – but also so easy to make the time if you’re willing to put it all on the line. I wouldn’t say that we didn’t push, but I was definitely too cautious in the hairpins and that’s where we lost it. It’s difficult right now, but it’s still a good result and we’ve strengthened our position in the championship.”
Mark Hallam, Marketing Manager, NGK Spark Plugs (UK) Ltd, said: “It was a tremendous performance by the M-Sport team. It was fantastic for Teemu to achieve his best-ever result and Elfyn was unlucky not to make it a double-podium success.”
Notes to Editors
About NGK SPARK PLUG:
Worldwide: NGK Spark Plug is one of the leading automotive and technical ceramics suppliers, with its corporate headquarters in Nagoya, Japan and sales organisations and production facilities all over the world. The automotive side of the company specialises in the fields of ignition and sensor technology, supplying Original Equipment and Aftermarket customers across the globe. Its product portfolio for the Aftermarket comprises spark plugs, glow plugs, ignition coils and leads under the NGK Ignition Parts brand, whilst oxygen and temperature sensors, NOx sensors, mass air flow (MAF) and manifold absolute pressure (MAP) sensors operate under the brand NTK Vehicle Electronics. With more than 14,500 employees, the company’s automotive and technical ceramics activities generate a total annual turnover of around 3.1 billion Euros worldwide. NGK Spark Plug is represented on all continents and has 41 group companies, 24 production plants and five technical centres.
Aftermarket EMEA: NGK Spark Plug has seen significant growth across the Aftermarket since expanding beyond motorcycle parts into the automotive sector in the 1970s. With an outstanding commitment to quality, technology and research & development the company has become the world’s number one in spark plugs and oxygen sensors, and a leading provider of glow plugs, ignition coils and leads as well as further sensor technology. Organisationally NGK Spark Plug’s regional headquarters in Ratingen, Germany serves the Aftermarket across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In the EMEA region – which currently represents 32% of NGK´s global turnover – the company has ten group companies and more than 800 employees, as well as two production plants in France and South Africa and a technical centre in Germany.
For more information please visit: www.ngk-europe.com
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