M-Sport Ford driver Esapekka Lappi has praised the performance of his team-mate Teemu Suninen through Saturday afternoon – and admitted he will be following his countryman on set-up changes aboard his own Ford Fiesta WRC for Sunday’s final four Rally Turkey stages.
While Lappi struggled with understeer to end the day almost two-and-a-half minutes down on leader Thierry Neuville, Suninen is a minute closer to the sharp end, one place ahead in sixth.
“Mentally, it wasn’t the easiest one,” Lappi told DirtFish. “As we were early on the road, I tried to drive well, but it felt challenging at times.”
When asked what changes he thought would make Sunday less of a challenge, he replied:
“We need to try some other geometry on the rear if it helps for the turning, and that’s the only idea to be honest. I’m sure it’s going to help. But that’s the way it is when we were unable to test, we need to do it on the rally as I couldn’t do any settings for this rally. So it’s a bit of a lottery, which settings I should use in the beginning and if it’s going to work or not.”
He followed that up with comments on his team-mate’s pace in Turkey.
“I think Teemu was doing great this afternoon, and he made this change in the middle service for the rear, and he said it helped a lot for the turning. And I think the pace of Teemu on the long one was really good.
“So I’m sure there will be more speed if we can just make the car perfect for myself.”
Perfection is an ambitious target, but where are his ambitions set for Sunday’s stages?
“[Tomorrow] the gap to the front is big for me, I believe it’s just to stay out of trouble and see what happens.”
Suninen’s time through the 19-mile Yeşilbelde test was 10 seconds closer to the pace through the afternoon; he was fourth quickest in SS6, 21s off Neuville’s scratch.
He confirmed to DirtFish that the rear geometry changes that Lappi had referenced had indeed made a difference as “it fits more my driving style”.
“I was really happy for the car now and actually I was giving everything I had and I was able to set quite good times,” Suninen said.
“OK in the last stage I was taking it a bit carefully because we started the stage with nearly slick tires, and I was worried for the punctures, but there was nothing really to worry about.”
“It was a rear geometry [change] back to the last spec which I had last year here, and it helped me to rotate the car in the slow sections which we have most of the rally. ”
Like team-mate Lappi, Suninen is also sure that Sunday’s action will be challenging but isn’t ruling out a potential attack on Kalle Rovanperä’s fifth place. Rovanperä is currently 14.4s up the road.
“Tomorrow is a really challenging day as I would say it’s [got] the roughest stage in the rally [to start] and it might be a game changer. Hopefully not, because for now it’s been all good for us, but yeah [we] still have to keep focusing and try to do our best and see if we can catch Kalle or not.”