Fri 26 Aug 2022

HOW THE ARCTIC RALLY DEFINED LAPPI'S CAREER

Without a WRC drive in 2021, Esapekka Lappi has revealed to Becs Williams on WRC Backstories that turning up to compete in WRC2 at Arctic Rally Finland Powered by CapitalBox 2021 was one of the most important decisions of the 31-year-old’s career.

The Finnish driver entered 2021 with his career at a crossroads. Following a breakthrough 2018 when he contested a full season with Toyota Gazoo Racing, Lappi moved to Citroën. But when the French Manufacturer withdrew from the championship at the end of the 2019 season, Lappi could only secure a one-year seat with M-Sport Ford and no real opportunities beyond there at the top level.

In order to not fade into oblivion, Lappi made the tactical decision to enter the second round of the 2021 season in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. It was a decision that paid off dearly.

“The only chance was knowing there might be a seat at Toyota next year (2022),” Lappi explained to Williams. “So let’s go for Arctic Rally to keep some feeling and rhythm and to keep my name on lists. That is how it all started.”

Lappi produced a masterful display, romping to a 47.7sec WRC2 victory over eventual 2021 champion Andreas Mikkelsen.

“It made what is happening now possible,” reflected Lappi. “I am sure if I stayed home and did not do any events last year, I would have nothing for this year. Arctic Rally was the key moment.”

Lappi expanded further, saying that negotiations with Toyota began soon after and by the time he turned out for a second WRC2 outing at Vodafone Rally de Portugal in late May, the deal was done.

“I knew that I am fighting for this seat so I have a real chance. When we went to Portugal, I knew I would get it.”

Lappi then got to experience one final run in the Toyota Yaris WRC which had taken him to his maiden victory in Finland back in 2017, entering Secto Automotive Rally Finland 2021 as a fifth Yaris entry, finishing fourth.

“It was really like a homecoming…to be sat in this Yaris WRC again felt amazing. The power and all the potential felt amazing.

“It sort of felt like I had not been away. The guys were really warm and nice again. It was a really natural move. It was nice to do that.”

Among other topics on the podcast, Lappi also discusses with Williams his decision to leave Toyota at the end of 2018, the challenges he encountered at Citroën and the time he was 20sec quicker than Sébastien Ogier on Ouninpohja.

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