M-Sport World Rally Team factory driver Esapekka Lappi will make his first competitive outing since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic next week, competing on Jämsän Äijät Ralli in a privateer Ford Fiesta WRC.
Lappi has not driven in anger since the curtailed Rally México in mid-March, but in similar fashion to Toyota protégé Takamoto Katsuta he will participate in the regional Finnish rally on August 8.
However, Lappi will not be competing for M-Sport in Jämsä, but will instead drive a Fiesta run by Finnish preparation company JanPro Racing.
Headed by former Škoda and M-Sport factory driver Janne Tuohino, JanSport owns one of M-Sport’s original 2017 Fiestas, which was driven regularly by Lappi’s World Rally Championship team-mate Teemu Suninen in 2017 and 2018.
“I’ve missed being behind the wheel, and this rally gives us the perfect opportunity to drive flat-out on some of the world’s best gravel stages,” said Lappi.
“It’s the perfect warm-up ahead of the season restart, and our main target is to get up to speed before Rally Estonia.”
Jämsän Äijät Ralli is based in the same region used for several of Rally Finland’s stages, making it a useful pre-event test for Rally Estonia.
Those stages are available thanks to the event taking place on the same day as Rally Finland would have visited the area if it had not been canceled.
A precise itinerary is yet to be unveiled for the event but organizers have confirmed it will contain three stages.
JMK Ralli, a regional rally in the Jämsä region held in February, utilized Ouninpohja and a variation of the Kakaristo stage used on last year’s WRC event.
Despite Rally Finland’s cancelation, Jämsän Äijät Ralli organisers are allowing spectators on the stages, with a wristband system in operation.
Eerik Pietarinen, who is a class winner in WRC3 (then WRC2), will also compete on the event in a Škoda Fabia R5.