The M-Sport Ford driver has been partnered by Marko Salminen for the first seven rounds of the campaign, but has enrolled his fellow Finn in search of greater experience. Their alliance will start at this week’s Rally Italia Sardegna (13 – 16 June).

Lehtinen is one of the sport’s most knowledgeable co-drivers. He has started 169 WRC events, most alongside Mikko Hirvonen, with whom he finished runner-up in the WRC on four occasions and won the manufacturers’ title with Ford in 2006 and 2007.

“I want to thank Marko because we achieved a lot together over the first half of the year. We won stages and led our very first rally,” said Suninen.

“But I’m still learning, and having the experience of someone like Jarmo will be really important if I am to achieve my goals over the second half of the season.

“Rally Sardinia is quite familiar to me. This will be my fourth time there and I hope that helps as I get up to speed with Jarmo.

Suninen finished fourth in Portugal

“With only a week since the previous event we haven’t had long to prepare, but if everything goes to plan I’m confident I can show the same pace I had in Portugal,” added the 25-year-old, who finished fourth in the seventh round of the season.

After retiring from co-driving in 2014, Lehtinen was sporting director at Toyota Gazoo Racing when the Japanese manufacturer returned to the WRC in 2017. He left in August that year and has most recently worked as a consultant in the championship.

• Suninen is the latest star to be confirmed on the entry list for next month’s WRC promotional event at Shell Helix Rally Estonia (12 – 14 July). He will drive the all-new Fiesta R5 and joins team-mate Elfyn Evans, and Andreas Mikkelsen and Esapekka Lappi on the start list.

• Read Lehtinen’s thoughts on his surprise WRC return in a special guest column here on wrc.com on Wednesday 12 June.

Head to WRC+ to watch All Live from Rally Italia Sardegna, including every stage broadcast live, breaking service park news and expert studio analysis.