Esapekka Lappi says a repeat of his heroic 2017 victory will be the tallest of tall orders as he played down his chances of outright success on Secto Automotive Rally Finland next week.
The 30-year-old is making a return to the FIA World Rally Championship’s top class for his home round in a Toyota Yaris WRC.
It will be the first time since ACI Raly Monza in December 2020 that Lappi and co-driver Janne Ferm have competed in a World Rally Car.
As a result, Lappi insists he needs time to reacclimatise to World Rally Car performance levels on the flat-out forest roads of central Finland.
“It’s impossible that after a 10-month break from a WRC that I just come back with one test day and be at the same level as the others even though people might be expecting much more than what I can do,” said Lappi, who was due to test his Yaris WRC today (Saturday). “It shouldn’t be possible at this level and I need to keep that in my mind.”
Lappi won WRC2 on Arctic Rally Finland Powered by CapitalBox in February and repeated the feat on Vodafone Rally de Portugal in May. However, he’s keeping his expectations in check as he prepares to compete in a Toyota Yaris WRC for the first time since Rally Australia in November 2018.
“A good rally for me would be during Friday I get used to the speeds again and driving the car on the pacenotes,” Lappi said. “Hopefully on Saturday and Sunday we can do some competitive stage times and for that I would be happy. But I don’t need to do anything special, I need to do a good performance. Not to be the last in the WRC class is my aim, I would be very disappointed if I was the last one so somewhere between the top and the last is my target on this special rally.”
Of the prospect of competing on Secto Automotive Rally Finland in autumn rather than summer, Lappi said: “Definitely it makes things more challenging and probably more interesting for the spectators. Some stages will be a bit like Wales Rally GB and the night stages on gravel is something I have not done since Wales in 2018. The mornings will be really cold and [on Wednesday] morning we had minus three degrees [centigrade]. But it’s the same for everyone.”