Monday | 08 Feb 2021

Lappi gears up for Arctic comeback

Esapekka Lappi will return in FIA World Rally Championship action on home territory at Arctic Rally Finland Powered by CapitalBox (26 - 28 February).

Lappi will pilot a Volkswagen Polo GTI in WRC2 for the Movisport team, in what he hopes will be the first of several outings this year in the championship’s main support category. He will be team-mate to Nikolay Gryazin at the snow and ice fixture.

The 30-year-old Finn won the WRC2 title in 2016 before stepping up to the top tier. He left M-Sport Ford at the end of last year after a single season with the British squad.

“I had a plan to do the rally, actually in RC2 because there was not really a team available for WRC2,” Lappi told wrc.com. “Then I get a hint from the clerk of the course that I should call Movisport and ask about it and then, let’s say, it started from that. Now we are joining forces.”

Video: Arctic Rally Finland

Asked about more rounds, he added: “I think it’s possible. There is some sort of plan for me, or target, and it’s not only one event so I would like to be there in the future as well.”

Lappi will have a two-day test in Lapland at the start of rally week to give him the best chance of victory against what is expected to be a strong entry, including Rallye Monte-Carlo WRC2 winner Andreas Mikkelsen.

“I realise the competition is very high also in this category, it will not be an easy job. There are so many good drivers in WRC2 at the moment. It will be a big challenge and big competition I believe, but my target is to win,” he said.

Lappi won Arctic Rally Lapland, a sister event to the Rovaniemi-based WRC fixture, in 2012 but believes that will not prove a big advantage.

Lappi's last rally with M-Sport Ford was December's ACI Rally Monzah M-Spo

“We need to keep in mind that was nine years ago. The nature of the road doesn’t change but it’s a long time ago and it’s a long time since we have done a proper winter rally with the snowbanks. It’s something we’ve not done in many years,” he explained.

“It’s a bit different to Sweden. Sometimes in the Arctic it’s actually a bit faster road and more simple. There are long straights with 90-degree corners at the end.

“Probably there is a bit more vertical, not in terms of jumps, but small bumps which is actually challenging to recognise because the surface is normally just plain white.

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“One thing which many drivers haven’t faced during the past years is the fog you can have from the snow when you have a lot of minus degrees. So if you are first car that’s fine, but second car already can have some visibility problems.”

Lappi acknowledges the remote forest special stages in northern Finland are not for the faint-hearted.

“It’s really an adventure because you are so far away from everything that even the phones don’t work. The landscapes are beautiful but if you stop there, you are really alone. Maybe with the wolves, but mainly alone!”

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