Thursday | 02 Sep 2021

Lappi seals private Yaris drive at Rally Finland

Esapekka Lappi will drive a privately-entered Toyota Yaris World Rally Car at Secto Automotive Rally Finland in a move he hopes will ease his way to an FIA World Rally Championship programme next season.

The Finn, who has been absent from the top-flight since leaving M-Sport Ford last year, announced on Thursday that he will hire a Yaris from the factory Toyota Gazoo Racing squad for the Jyväskylä-based event on 1 - 3 October.

“It’s our own project so we’re going to rent a car but with mechanics from Toyota Gazoo Racing,” he told wrc.com. “So it’s run by them, but it’s going to be in our own livery.”

Lappi drove a works Yaris to victory on his home WRC round in 2017 on only his fourth top-level start. He left Toyota Gazoo Racing at the end of 2018 but single seasons with Citroën Racing and then M-Sport Ford failed to deliver further wins.

Lappi (right) and co-driver Janne Ferm were victorious in Finland in 2017 in a Yaris

The 30-year-old is linked with a return to Toyota next season, possibly sharing the squad’s third car with Sébastien Ogier, who will step back from a full-time WRC drive at the end of this year.

Lappi, who will test the car on the Monday of rally week, hopes his Finland outing will help those talks but will not be drawn into any predictions about a result.

“I hope this will help, but that’s why I need to be smart. I want that it will help me and not to destroy these negotiations, so that’s why I don’t want to push myself too much. I don’t want to make any extra pressure on myself,” he added.

“I cannot really set any targets for the finish in terms of position. I think we just need to concentrate more on stage times, general speed and improvement during the weekend.

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“That’s probably the smartest way to do it because I cannot really predict in which kind of speed I’m going to do on the first day. It’s very hard to understand where we are.

“I’m lacking a bit of routine, that’s very clear. I believe the day of testing will mainly just be to get used to the speed again, to get used to the aero.

“I’m sure that still during the event, at the beginning, I try to understand again how fast you can go in these cars. Probably, or at least I hope, by the weekend we can get up to speed again and hopefully do some good times towards the end of the rally.”

Since leaving M-Sport Ford, Lappi has made two appearances in WRC2 this year in a Volkswagen Polo GTI. He won the premier support category at both Arctic Rally Finland and Vodafone Rally de Portugal.

Lappi has won twice in WRC2 this year

The switch to autumn from a traditional mid-summer slot will bring significant changes to the characteristics of the roller-coaster gravel roads at the WRC’s fastest fixture.

“If it’s dry the [low] start position is in our favour but normally around this date it’s not dry, so it’s going to be interesting. Then at the end of Friday, the last stage I will do in darkness and the first cars will have daylight,” Lappi added.

“We have never done Finland in the darkness in summer on gravel so that changes. That’s a bit of a disadvantage but I don’t really stress about it.”

Lappi’s appearance means there will be five Yaris cars in Finland. The factory squad will, as usual, run cars for championship leader Ogier, Elfyn Evans, Kalle Rovanperä and Takamoto Katsuta.

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