Esapekka Lappi has admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic “messed up” the whole M-Sport Ford World Rally team after a difficult 2020 season that yielded just one podium across the seven rallies.
M-Sport finished a distant third in the manufacturers’ championship with Teemu Suninen’s third place in Rally Mexico marking its only rostrum appearance of the shortened season.
Lappi ended the year sixth in the drivers’ championship – one place ahead of team-mate Suninen – and with a pair of fourth-place finishes in the first and final rallies of the year as his best results.
The coronavirus pandemic re-shaped the 2020 WRC calendar and left a six-month break between March’s Rally Mexico and Rally Estonia in September, something that hit the Cumbrian-based outfit especially hard compared to its rivals.
“It’s been a strange season for everyone,” Lappi told DirtFish.
“It all happened very quickly. Let’s say the beginning of the season was quite fine, we had the pre-event tests; not too much time in the car before Monte, but anyway some [positive] things.
“But then, let’s say, the pandemic just messed up the whole team, I’d say. Times are really difficult.
“The speed in the beginning of the season was quite decent in my opinion, and after the lockdown and the break, I think it was a bit of a surprise that at least Hyundai made a big step during the break, and for sure we couldn’t develop anything, so at least to me it was a surprise actually how far away from the top that we were.”
While Toyota and Hyundai competed in a variety of pre-event tests, M-Sport’s testing for each rally post-lockdown was minimal. Lappi, the 2017 Rally Finland winner, was asked by DirtFish if he felt let down by the lack of M-Sport’s development in 2020.
“Not really let down, but I was hoping that we could at least do the pre-event tests, which would help,” he replied. “Also at least develop the dampers or the suspension. But at the same time, I understand it’s very difficult and the money is not growing on the trees or from the ground. It is what it is.”
After he finished fourth on the Monza Rally, Lappi admitted that he doesn’t expect to compete in the WRC in 2021. M-Sport is yet to confirm the identity of any of its drivers for the 2021 season, with the Monte Carlo Rally six weeks away.