Sat 30 Apr 2022

Lappi earns plaudits from Toyota boss

Toyota Gazoo Racing boss Jari-Matti Latvala praised Esapekka Lappi’s ability to bounce back from his early exit at last weekend’s Croatia Rally.

The younger of the two Finns clipped a first stage rock. The impact damaged the front-right corner of his GR Yaris and he was forced out of contention for the remainder of Friday’s opening leg.

Lappi returned for the weekend and, aided by opening the road in the tricky conditions, he posted four fastest times on his first asphalt outing in the car.

“I have to be honest,” said Latvala, “I didn’t really expect to see so much speed from him on Saturday and Sunday.

“You know, when you are stopping early in a rally, when you retire from the first day, the motivation is not always so high to come back and make the fastest times. But he did it.

“Of course, the mistake was disappointing in the first stage, but it’s important that we see Esapekka smiling at the finish. It was good that he could be relaxed and drive like he was driving, especially because he wasn’t on this rally last year. He took some good experience.”

Lappi, who bagged a podium in Sweden in February on his return to the Japanese manufacturer’s line-up after three years away, said his pace was a good sign for rallies to come.

“I’m very satisfied with our speed this weekend. After Friday I think we did what we could. I wasn’t expecting that we could win so many stages in these conditions, and I need to take that with me for the future,” he added.

However, the 31-year-old was frustrated by the manner of his mistake.

“There was a combination of left and right corners, and in the left there was a big cut with a lot of mud,” he explained.

“So for the right-hander I thought the tyres would be muddy, and I turned in a bit too early and touched this large rock at the side of the road, which unfortunately broke our suspension.

“It was quite a stupid thing to do and quite frustrating to lose the chance of a good result so early.”

Lappi will sit out next month’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal (19 - 22 May), where Sébastien Ogier drives the third GR Yaris, before returning to the car for Rally Italia Sardegna (2 - 5 June).

Video: Croatia Rally in slow motion
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