Esapekka Lappi has been left impressed by the speed of the hybrid Rally1 cars following his Croatia Rally pre-event test last week, laughing that this is the first time ever in rallying he hasn’t had to “ask for more power”.
Toyota driver Lappi is yet to drive the GR Yaris Rally1 on a sealed surface in competition, as he missed the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally with Sébastien Ogier at the wheel of their shared car.
“After a while it feels a bit crazy how reactive the car is on Tarmac, it’s been a while since I’ve been driving on it. The reaction is crazy, the amount of grip; it feels impressive,” Lappi said.
“Also the distance to stop the car or slow down the car feels… impressive. Definitely, on this surface you really understand how much extra power you have with the hybrid boost and how impressive the acceleration actually is. It is really like a huge kick coming.
“On the wide road it’s fine, but sometimes on the small road it’s a bit too much. At least at the beginning of the test day it feels a bit crazy. But yeah it’s maybe the first time ever in this sport that I don’t need to ask for more power, I’m pretty satisfied with what we have!”
Lappi heads to Croatia in a fine bout of form having claimed a third place finish on the first Umeå-based Rally Sweden. However, along with Oliver Solberg, he is one of just two drivers to have not contested Croatia Rally before – in fact Lappi had never even visited the country before in his life before his pre-event test.
That means that he’s keeping his expectations more measured this time around.
“I think we need to somehow forget what happened in Sweden,” he said.
“Definitely I need to take the self-confidence from there but on the other hand, I need to understand that Sweden was, let’s say, a rally I know well. It was a new rally for everyone but the conditions were something I know, what I’m good at, and now we are completely on the other side.”
Lappi hasn’t driven on asphalt at all since the Monza Rally in 2020, his final rally for the M-Sport Ford team. But the Finn found a good feeling on his pre-event test and doesn’t want “to give up already before the start”.
He explained: “I believe there are two big challenges on this rally. Definitely the first one is the lack of experience on this rally. I mean, it always helps when you’ve done the stages once or twice, but probably the bigger monkey on my shoulder is the dirt on the road which has never been my favorite surface. In the past I’ve done some mistakes on this kind of surface.
“But recently I’ve done pretty well on these rallies – well, not recently but a few years ago – when I was in the WRC car. I want to turn the page, I want to be better on this.
“I want to perform well, I want to be in the fight, I want to have a clean rally and I’m sure we can do it. At the moment the car feels very good actually so probably we can really make a turnover.”
Croatia is the second event of Lappi’s season but so far it’s not known how many events he will do and indeed which events he will miss with Ogier returning.
But although he wasn’t willing to divulge any details quite yet, Lappi has revealed that he now has “a clear understanding” of which events he and Ogier will each do.
“We have had some discussions [about] what we will do later on,” said Lappi.
“We are having a clear understanding of what we are going to do so definitely you will know sooner or later, we will inform you.”