Esapekka Lappi would happily accept another part-time World Rally Championship season in 2023, feeling he’s not at the level to challenge Kalle Rovanperä for the title.
Lappi made his top-class WRC debut with Toyota back in 2017, winning Rally Finland on just his fourth ever start – a result that still stands as his only WRC victory to date.
I acknowledge that I have no chance to beat Kalle at the moment or anything like this.Esapekka Lappi on his standing within Toyota's lineup
But Lappi’s career lost momentum over the succeeding years. An ill-fated move to Citroën in 2019 was followed by a shift to M-Sport Ford for 2020 when Citroën pulled out of the championship; both moves failed to deliver any headline results.
Lappi took a step back in 2021, entering just three rounds of the WRC but winning two of them (Arctic Rally Finland and Rally Portugal) in WRC2 and then finishing a strong fourth overall on Rally Finland in a hired Toyota Yaris WRC.
That performance was enough to earn him a return to the Toyota factory team in 2022, albeit as a part-time driver to fill in for Sébastien Ogier on the events he wouldn’t be contesting.
Next week’s Acropolis Rally Greece will be Lappi’s seventh start from a possible 10 this season, and he has already bagged podiums in Sweden, Finland and Belgium and led in Italy.
Lappi doesn’t currently have a deal in place for 2023 but Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala has however told DirtFish that he would like to retain the exact same lineup of drivers next season.
That would safeguard Lappi’s position in the team, although potentially consign him to another year of sharing driving duties with Ogier.
But that’s a prospect that doesn’t worry Lappi, whose quiet year in 2021 has given him a fresh and renewed perspective on rallying.
“Well there are two sides,” Lappi said when asked if he’d rather a full-time or a part-time season.
“For sure as a driver, you would like to get a chance to fight for the big prize. Then on the other hand, the most important thing of your life is your family and then the partial season is a very good balance – with professional life in rallying and then family life.
“I am ready for both to be fair. I acknowledge that I have no chance to beat Kalle at the moment or anything like this but to keep that in mind, this partial program is actually pretty good.”
Most drivers prefer a full campaign, but there have been several over recent years that have flourished with partial seasons.
Sébastien Loeb is a clear example, winning this year’s Monte Carlo Rally in one of a planned four appearances for M-Sport Ford, as is Hyundai’s Dani Sordo who has won Rally Italy twice since stepping back from being a full-time WRC driver.