Esapekka Lappi has revealed he knew his World Rally Championship season would be ending after Acropolis Rally Greece as early as “May or June”.
Monday’s announcement that Sébastien Ogier would be doing not only next week’s Rally New Zealand but also Rally Spain and Japan has brought Lappi’s season to an end, as he and Ogier are sharing a Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 in 2022.
Lappi has contested each of the last four rallies (Estonia, Finland, Ypres and Acropolis) and scored a podium on two of them, collecting another third place in Sweden upon his return to the Toyota team he drove for in 2017 and ’18.
Ogier, whose best finish this year was second on the Monte Carlo Rally, hasn’t been in action since Safari Rally Kenya in June, but confirmation he’ll drive on each of the last three events means he’ll complete almost half of the events (six from 13).
Throughout the season Lappi has continually been asked when he will next be in the car and if he knows what his full 2022 program will be, but each time he has suggested he doesn’t really know.
But in a media hour hosted by Toyota on Thursday, Lappi admitted that he has known what he would be doing this year for a good while longer than he made out.
“I’ve been knowing it for a while,” Lappi said, responding to DirtFish’s question about when he found out his season was over.
“As you all know, let’s say as a driver we cannot publish things, so I need to lie to you many times!
“But yeah I think this wasn’t anything dramatic, it didn’t include any drama discussing about the program earlier in the season and I think this was agreed in May or June that Séb wants to do the three last events and that’s it.
“So no drama from that.”
Lappi is thought to be a strong contender to remain with Toyota into next season. Team principal Jari-Matti Latvala has told DirtFish he’d like to keep the same driver lineup in 2023 and Lappi has hinted he feels he’s done enough to earn it too.
He admitted that he is feeling confident he will remain with the team next year.
“We have already started slightly to negotiate about it, so I’m feeling positive definitely,” he said.
“For sure if I feel positive about it and I want to stay in the team and then if Jari-Matti is saying he wants me in the team I think that is a good combination. So I’m feeling pretty confident we can stay.
“But about the program? I don’t know at all, so let’s wait and see.”