Esapakka Lappi was the happiest he has been in years en route to WRC2 victory on last week’s Arctic Rally Finland, according to his co-driver Janne Ferm.
Lappi and Ferm have worked together since 2010 when Lappi was driving a Honda Civic. The pair rose up through the rallying ranks, getting picked up by Škoda in 2013 before becoming European Rally Champions the following year and WRC2 Champions in 2016.
They then made the leap into the top-tier of world rallying, and won just their fourth event in a works World Rally Car at home in Finland.
But lows have been more frequent than highs since then, as a relatively flat first full season of Toyota in 2018 preceded two difficult years with Citroën and M-Sport respectively.
Lappi and Ferm left M-Sport at the end of the 2020 season and showed no real intent of trying to get back into rallying until they waded into a very competitive WRC2 battle on Arctic Rally Finland.
Up against fellow WRC exile Andreas Mikkelsen there was plenty to prove, but Lappi hammered Mikkelsen’s Fabia Rally2 evo in his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 to record eight stage wins from 10 and win the class by a clear 47.7 seconds.
“It’s been great,” Lappi told DirtFish.
“Especially [on Saturday] when it’s sunshine, minus degrees, it’s just more enjoyment all the time.
“The car works so well as well. The pacenotes are good, I can’t think about any better.”
When DirtFish put it to him that he seemed to be more buoyant than on recent rallies, Lappi said: “Yeah that’s true.
“When we had the second day of testing on Monday, we had the first run and even Janne said to me that you haven’t been like this in years.
“The car is just nice to drive, really nice.”
Lappi hadn’t driven competitively in the R5 class since Rally Australia 2016 with Škoda, but the cars have progressed dramatically since then.
Asked for his thoughts on the Polo’s performance, he said: “I was really surprised how different actually this Volkswagen is from the geometry and from the suspension. It’s really impressed me.
“I didn’t need to do big changes to be honest. I don’t remember [the last time] that I’ve not touched a car, it’s maybe many years ago that I haven’t really tried to find better settings during the race.
“We need some, you know we lift the car for some stages and then we went back down, but that’s all I did. So I was really satisfied.”
So what does it all mean for the future? Will Lappi be back out in WRC2 or even World Rally Car machinery again this year?
“It always depends on money. That’s the question,” Lappi said.
“Hopefully we can find more sponsors or something, and then we can make it happen. But let’s see.
“I’m sure this didn’t make things worse.”