A few weeks subsequent to the publication of the FIA R4 regulations by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, ORECA – the official exclusive kit supplier for this class – released the names of the three drivers responsible for developing the kit in the upcoming months.
Step by step, the R4 project is coming to fruition. For the first dynamic testing of the kit, ORECA has chosen three seasoned and complementary drivers to carry out the development work during various testing sessions scheduled to begin this summer. Stéphane Sarrazin, Raphaël Astier and Teemu Suninen will call upon their cumulative experience in rally to serve ORECA during the next few months to validate the decisions made relative to the FIA R4 kit.
Stéphane Sarrazin: the French driver is known for his versatility, as evidenced by a nearly 25-year career both on the track and in rally. Currently with Toyota in endurance racing and Venturi in Formula e, he was crowned French Rally Champion in 2004 prior to competing for several seasons in the World Rally Championship as an official Subaru driver and in the European Rally Championship with Peugeot. His many victories in major circuit races, international experience with constructors and close ties to ORECA quickly made his involvement in this program essential. Stéphane will also be able to provide a useful perspective as a team principal given that he has launched his own team, Sarrazin Motorsport.
”Everyone is aware of my interest in rally and strong connection with ORECA. I am happy to play a part in this new endeavor! The R4 class looks promising with a top-notch performance level and proper approach. I will contribute as a driver but also a bit like a team owner. I cannot wait to start testing. It is always interesting to play a role in the development, for both circuit and rally racing, especially at the wheel of a car that will compete all over the world as well. I will try to make use of all my experience and I think that with Teemu and Raphaël we will form a good trio,” explains Stéphane.
Raphaël Astier: a winner in the French Rally Championship, Raphaël represents the younger generation of French rally drivers. First at the wheel of a Porsche 911 then a Peugeot 208, he has made impressive progress, even clinching a class win at this year’s Monte Carlo Rally. Having served as an ORECA Store ambassador for several years now, he has cemented a strong relationship with the French company and therefore is an important contributor to this program.
The young French driver states, “I happy to be participating in this program as a test driver for the development of the R4 class and I am looking forward to learning about this new car and sharing my impressions with the ORECA technicians.
The R4 is a very good idea and I believe it will prove highly successful with rally competitors. To be involved in a project in its infancy is always motivating. Here’s to the first kilometers this summer!”
Teemu Suninen: after cutting his teeth in the World Rally Championship with ORECA in 2015 and 2016 – first in the WRC 3 then the WRC 2 with a Ford Fiesta R5 then a Skoda Fabia R5 – the young Finnish driver has moved up in the World Rally Championship this year by joining the prestigious M-Sport/Ford team. After starting the season in WRC 2, at just 23 years of age, Teemu made a remarkable debut in the top WRC class at the 2017 Rally of Poland (6th) and confirmed his natural speed a few days ago with a superb 4th place at home in the Rally of Finland.
“It is very exciting to be able to take part in the development of a new class in rally. I think R4 is a great way to build a bridge between R3 and R5, it will make moving from one class to another easier.I’ve always thought it was important to have this class because there are quite a few good drivers and I believe this will allow more drivers the opportunity to run good cars. I hope this new class will be successful and I have complete confidence that ORECA will design a strong kit,” affirms the Finn.
The caliber of such a varied trio provides an ideal collaboration for the development of a new class like the R4. Their respective experience, whether on a track or asphalt, will prove an invaluable asset in the work awaiting ORECA Technology in the coming weeks.