Esapekka Lappi has promised to keep his emotions in check when he makes his World Rally Car debut at Vodafone Rally de Portugal [18 - 21 May] - despite admitting it's the drive he's waited his whole life for.
Last year's WRC 2 champion will join Jari-Matti Latvala and Juho Hänninen in a three-car Toyota Gazoo Racing team, the first time the Japanese manufacturer will enter a trio of its Yaris WRCs.
Renowned for his ice-cool demeanour, Lappi joined Toyota as a test driver and believes his development brief will keep him fully occupied throughout the gravel event.
"It's obviously very exciting for me to be starting my first rally in the Yaris WRC: the opportunity I've been waiting for all of my life. But this is team effort, and my role is to collect as much data as possible for the team to develop the car further," he said.
"The most important thing is to finish: never easy on such a challenging event like Portugal. For my own experience too, I need to make sure that I do all the stages, so we're going to take a very calm and focused approach to the rally."
Toyota hopes to accelerate the development of its Yaris WRC by running a third car for Lappi on most remaining WRC events this year. Lappi also joined Latvala and Hanninen to test suspension, damper and differential settings at a difficult pre-event test in Portugal.
"We had a few new things to test for Portugal, with the suspension as well as some other components, but the weather was really bad so it's hard to know how realistic our results were," explained team boss Tommi Mäkinen.
"Although there are still a lot of unknowns―especially with the conditions―we hope to make another step forwards on gravel, improving the car step by step as we have been doing all year. For this we will be helped by our third test car in Portugal with Esapekka and Janne, which will definitely bring us some extra information."