New Hyundai driver Esapekka Lappi says he is now “90%” in tune with the i20 N Rally1 after his first three events in the car.
Lappi finished eighth on the Monte Carlo Rally, led the Finnish championship’s Kuopio Rally until a very costly off and then came seventh on Rally Sweden to currently lie seventh in the World Rally Championship standings.
He showed his pace in Sweden by winning the powerstage, and said he needed “to stay positive” about his end position as he was inflicted during the event by a “very unfortunate” tire delamination.
“The speed was fine this weekend,” Lappi said to DirtFish. “Maybe it wouldn’t be enough for the win, I don’t know, but for second place definitely, it could have been possible, so need to be pleased for that. And definitely we need to build on from this to México.”
Doing the Kuopio Rally was a way for Lappi to learn how his Hyundai handles on snow, but now he has a new challenge for Rally México as he has “no experience with this car yet” on gravel.
“But the other thing is it’s quite a different kind of rally,” Lappi pondered. “So it’s a lot slower, it seems that we have a really [well] performing car on the fast, so now we go to a bit slower rally.
“Also high altitude, first time with the Rally1 cars. We have no idea how it’s going to work, so maybe we will find more problems with the hybrids with the overheating. I don’t know. This will be a question mark for everyone. It will be a challenging week, for sure.”
Based on the asphalt, snow and ice he has competed on so far in the car, Lappi makes an encouraging assessment that it “90%” suits his driving style already. He applauds “the amazing job” he and the team have done “to understand the car already” and has answered his own question of: “Am I going to be competitive enough with this car?”
“In the end it doesn’t feel that difficult. For sure, it’s a bit different than what I had last year, but we did a good preparation for this weekend,” he said, comparing the i20 N to the Toyota GR Yaris Rally1.
“OK, in the end it didn’t pay off, but at least the pace was there… I think it suits OK.”
Whether the car can be adjusted more to suit him, rather than bend his driving style to suit the car, Lappi said: “Personally, it’s from the diffs; but this is a very challenging topic with all the homologation stuff and jokers.”
While his feeling with the car seems to be full of positives, that has not entirely translated to Lappi enjoying his rallying this year.
“We still need to make three days together [on an event]. For sure the feeling would be 100 times higher if I could finish on the fight, but… even [though] I know I was quite good, but still it doesn’t bring me the endorphins.
“This is what you get when you do a good job during the whole week. It’s a big effort from the team, from us the last two weeks, and this is what I was looking for.”
As for the prospect of a second career WRC win, Lappi said: “I don’t know. I really don’t know. It comes. I really want to take the second victory. It wasn’t too far [away] here, but let’s see.”