Lappi wanted part-program for better home life

The Finn is seeking to spend more time with his family, a decision which he hopes will help him achieve better results


Esapekka Lappi requested to drop to a part-time World Rally Championship program in 2024 so that he could strike a better work/life balance.

Lappi joined Hyundai in 2023 after a part-time program with Toyota the previous season, where he was sharing a car with Sébastien Ogier.

But stepping up to his first full 13-event schedule since 2019 this year, Lappi has had a mixed debut season with strong pace and results but a few costly errors.

When Hyundai announced in October that it had re-signed Ott Tänak, the expectation always was that Lappi would be retained by Hyundai but dropped to a part-time schedule.

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And on Thursday during the Rally Japan weekend, Hyundai indeed confirmed that Lappi and co-driver Janne Ferm would remain part of the team but not as full-time competitors.

However it turns out that decision was entirely Lappi’s, as he seeks to be around more at home more for his family.

“If I’m honest I think it started from my request a long time ago already,” Lappi told DirtFish.

“Let’s say I saw in my private life when I’m this much away it’s not going to be 100% good at home, so I think this part program will be balancing better the private life and the professional life.

“For sure I do everything it needs to be better with the kids

“I think also if and when things will be better at home I will be more happy during the rally weeks,” he added, “more motivated, more feeling better generally so I’m sure it will be seen on the results as well.”

Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul feels Lappi’s revised 2024 program perfectly fits both what both he and the team need.



“I think I never hide the fact that I think there is more to do between EP and Hyundai, so here it is. That’s the plan,” Abiteboul told DirtFish.

“It’s only a partial program, it’s only a partial announcement because we are yet to decide and therefore to announce who will be the co drivers of that third car, but we knew that third car has a mission to support car one and two to fight namely with Thierry and Ott, so we wanted someone clearly who’s quick, who’s got experience, who can be a true team player and clearly that’s very much the profile of Esapekka.

“So we were keen also he sort of meets his needs and his expectation for where he is in his life. Without prejudice of where he could go in the future but for next year there is a good fit between what he wants and what we need. So there we go.

“Maybe it was also part of the rationale in signing Ott is frankly we’ve been discussing a lot with EP, I think we were very connected between what he wanted for himself and what the team needed also.

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“And as we felt he was more keen on a part program it was important to sort our lineup. The signature of Ott in that respect was particularly important, and with Ott and Thierry as full-time program it’s good also to have someone who’s only doing a part program.”

The identity of Lappi’s other team-mates is unclear publicly, and Abiteboul declared “I want to give myself a bit of time to finalize those plans”.

Lappi said: “This I don’t know, or maybe I know but you know that I can’t answer you. But I just answered them [other journalists], they asked who I would like to have I said [Marcus] Grönholm!”

DirtFish says…

I’ve shared this anecdote before on these pages, but I distinctly remember a fellow media colleague of mine asking what I perceived to be a daft question to Lappi during an end-of-season press conference hosted by Toyota last year.

If you had the opportunity to drive for another team in 2023 and it’s with a Rally1 car, would you be open to it?

‘Why on earth would you ask that?’ I thought. Lappi seemed so happy, so grateful to have made his way back to Toyota that the idea of a move seemed ludicrous. His response? “No, I don’t see any other options than Toyota.”

But he stunned us all when he jumped ship to Hyundai, and I’ll be honest and say I was skeptical as to whether it was the right move or not. Toyota was home to Lappi, why would he give that up?

But it turns out I was skeptical about the wrong aspect of the move. It’s the other home Lappi’s left, his more important home, that hasn’t worked out for him in 2023.

The beautiful one in Finland with his wife and children.

During that same press conference held in September 2022, Lappi spoke openly about the benefits of a part-time program. I asked him if he enjoyed being a part-time driver, pointing to how much drivers like Dani Sordo thrive on that sort of program.

Lappi said: “There is two sides, how do you want to see it, and the other side is the family which definitely likes it this way and I do like it as well. I think this is a good balance between family and professional life.”

In 2024, Lappi will have that again. And I am sure I speak for everyone when I say I am delighted for him and his family.

I don’t know any WRC drivers particularly well, but Lappi is a thoroughly good guy – and just like with anyone all we want is the best for him. The program he has secured next year looks to be just that: an opportunity to drive a top-line rally car in an environment he enjoys, but without sacrificing time with his children and feeling guilty about not being around as much as he feels he should.

Fair play to you, EP. Sometimes people focus too much on professional life and don’t consider the impact that can have on those closest to them. Absolutely nobody can accuse you of that.