Lappi feels Finland pressure
Finnish hotshot Esapekka Lappi believes repeating his shock Neste Rally Finland (26 - 29 July) victory of 12 months ago will be more difficult than achieving his maiden WRC success.
The 27-year-old delighted his home fans by overcoming fellow countryman and Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala to win on only his fourth appearance at the WRC’s top level.
Lappi cast aside a frustrating opening to his 2018 campaign to net a podium in Italy last month and acknowledges he will be under the spotlight on the four-day Jyväskylä-based gravel road encounter.
“There is more pressure this year. From my side, I am expecting a good result and I think everyone else is too, so we really need to perform. I think it will be tougher to win it this time, though,” said the Yaris World Rally Car pilot.
“The competition will be tougher, both from inside our team and from the other teams as well. The new stages will also create a big challenge. We know our car will be competitive so the focus will be on making good pace-notes and finding a nice flow with the driving.”
The team’s Puuppola base lies just 15km from the Jyväskylä service park and with plenty of testing experience on the region’s roads, some are predicting a Toyota podium lock-out for Lappi, Latvala and Ott Tänak, who is from neighbouring Estonia.
Team principal Tommi Mäkinen, a four-time winner in Finland, believes his trio of drivers is well-suited to the fast and technical roller-coaster roads.
“We know the Yaris WRC is strong on these types of roads, and all three of our drivers feel confident on these fast stages. I hope they can all be fighting for the victory. We are very well-prepared, but I think we will face strong competition from our rivals,” he said.
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