Friday | 26 May 2017

Lappi positive after Portugal points

Esapekka Lappi achieved more than he expected last weekend when he made his championship debut in a World Rally Car at Vodafone Rally de Portugal.

The Finnish rising star was promoted from test driver to full team member in Portugal, where he drove a Yaris WRC alongside Toyota Gazoo team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Juho Hänninen.

After settling into the stages on the opening morning, Lappi increased his pace steadily, beating Hänninen on five stages, and Latvala on three, until a collision with a wall in Saturday's final test (SS15) broke his car's suspension and left him crawling to the finish with the loss of five minutes.

His pace was even more impressive on Sunday when he was fourth quickest - and fastest Toyota driver - on the final two stages. He collected two bonus points from the Power Stage to add to the one he claimed for tenth overall.

"It was a really positive weekend and good to be so close," said Lappi, who shrugged off the disappointment of his earlier accident.

"What happened on Saturday didn't disturb me. You need to try to drive as fast as you can to understand and learn how fast the cars are going, and if you don't do it you never learn. Okay, I tried on Saturday and it cost a bit, but that's life. It's all part of the learning process. Otherwise it seems we did everything right over the weekend."

Lappi was surprised to have been quicker than both his team-mates on two stages - especially as the competition heated up on the final day.

"Juho was more the benchmark for me - I knew it was possible but for sure he was improving as well. I was not expecting to beat Jari-Matti," he said. "It's good to compare the times on the Power Stage where almost everybody is pushing very hard. The fact that we scored points immediately on the Power Stage is very good - I was maximum attack there."

After two seasons in WRC 2, and a title wining campaign with Skoda last year, Lappi admitted that the step up to the World Rally Car category was a steep one.

"I'm surprised by how perfect your stage needs to be if you are to take a fastest time," he said. "These guys are not making any mistakes or hesitating. You need to be really perfect in every corner, and this is a big difference from WRC 2. But that is just how it should be - this is the world's highest level of rally."


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