Teemu Suninen has secured an eight-round deal with M-Sport Ford in the 2018 World Rally Championship as well as entries into the WRC2 class.

The Finnish driver stormed into the headlines last year during his WRC debut outings in the premier class at Rally Poland and Rally Finland with sixth place on his debut followed by fourth place at his home event for M-Sport.

After two strong years in WRC2 for Skoda and M-Sport – having most recently won the 2017 Rally de Espana in the support class – the 23-year-old will enter eight events this year alongside defending world champion Sebastien Ogier and team-mate Elfyn Evans for the British squad which is boosted by Ford’s increased support as a factory effort in 2018.

Suninen will join Ogier and Evans at Rally Sweden, Rally Mexico, Rally de Portugal, Rally Italia Sardegna, Rally Finland, Rally Turkey, Wales Rally GB and Rally de Espana. The Finnish driver will also contest two WRC2 events for M-Sport at Rallye Monte Carlo and Rally Deutschland.

“This will be a nice season for us and I am very happy about my programme for 2018,” Suninen said. “The highlight will of course be the eight rallies with the Ford Fiesta WRC as part of the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team where I think we have a good opportunity to prove our potential.

“The plan is to start those rallies in a relaxed state of mind. There’s no now or never situation or anything like that and no need to focus on our position in the drivers’ championship. We’ll just take it rally by rally and make the most of every event we do.

“We need to ensure that we make the most of this opportunity, and that is exactly what we plan to do. I’m really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of a top-specification world rally car and aim to learn as much as I can.”

Having been a part of the WRC 2018 launch in Birmingham this week, M-Sport team principal Malcolm Wilson OBE is thrilled to secure Suninen for the upcoming season and having tipped the Finn as a future rally winner sees his partial WRC campaign as useful experience for the youngster in the Ford Fiesta WRC machine.

“There is no doubting Teemu’s potential and I am sure that he will prove himself a very valuable member of our team this year,” Wilson said. “More than a few heads were turned when he got behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta WRC for the first time last year. To secure a stage win on your debut outing is one thing, but to be challenging for a podium on your second is quite another.

“There is no denying that Teemu is a very talented young driver, and a future rally winner. With eight rallies this year he’ll get the vital experience needed to develop his career at this level and I would not be at all be surprised if we saw him challenging for a podium or two.”