Wednesday | 25 Mar 2020

Lappi Fiesta blaze remains a mystery

The cause of the blaze which gutted Esapekka Lappi’s Ford Fiesta at Rally Guanajuato Mexico earlier this month will likely remain unknown according to M-Sport Ford team principal Rich Millener.

Lappi finished the second run through the El Chocolate test at the León-based event with flames licking the rear of his car. Despite frantic efforts to quell the fire, it quickly intensified and minutes later the Fiesta burned out.

The shell has returned to M-Sport’s base in Britain where the team has inspected the remains. Millener said he wasn’t hopeful of learning much more from what was left of the car.

“We’ve looked back at the onboard a lot of times,” said Millener, “and it looks like the fire could have originated at the front of the car. You can see flames under the bonnet.

“Once the car is moving the flames probably came back along the transmission tunnel and all that heat and oxygen provides the perfect breeding ground for the fire to build.”

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Millener, like the rest of the service park, watched the drama unfold on the WRC+ All Live service and said seeing the fire at the rear of the car was even worse.

He added: “Once you see the back of the car alight, you know it’s pretty much gone. Once certain elements are burning it’s very, very difficult to get it out. A tyre, for example, is like a long-term firelighter. These things just keep on feeding the fire.

“We’re looking into it, but it’s pretty much all gone and it’s going to be a struggle to find anything out.”

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Lappi feels he can rule out a brake-related fire. “I don’t think it was a leak from brake fluid or something like that. The pedal was solid at the stop (line). I don’t know, it must have been fuel or oil or something to go so quickly.

“We had nothing, no warning in the stage, but then it was gone. I drove away from the stop line because this is what you do when you have a small fire, it blows it out with the airflow. But there was nothing we could do this time.”