M-Sport Ford World Rally Team leader Esapekka Lappi had waited almost five months to get back in a Fiesta WRC. On Thursday he did just that. His ride lasted 300 meters.
Instead of driving for the factory team, which is based in the United Kingdom’s Lake District, Lappi’s return was being facilitated by Finnish team JanPro Racing, a customer preparation firm that owns the only 2017-spec Fiesta WRC located in their homeland.
An engine problem aboard the Fiesta means he will not start the Jämsä Äijät Ralli on Saturday.
Lappi was looking forward to competing for the first time since leaping out of a burning Fiesta at the end of the El Chocolate stage at Rally México in March. Now those plans have been shelved.
“Of course it’s disappointing,” he told DirtFish, “but we have to accept that these things are possible when we are in a technical sport. There’s nothing we can do, the part cannot be found in time for the rally tomorrow so it’s over. We cannot fix it.
“This is the only car like this in Finland, so it’s not possible to take another car or do anything else.
“I haven’t driven for such a long time now. I don’t ever remember a time when I was out of the car for this long, not when I was with Škoda or before I was professional.”
Aware that his WRC rivals are getting more and more seat time ahead of the WRC season resuming in Estonia early next month, Lappi is keen to find another opportunity to drive as quickly as possible.
“We have some ideas and we’re making some plans,” he added. “We are thinking to get this [JanPro Racing] car re-prepared and then go somewhere to drive it. All I did was 300 meters, it was just like a warm-up and then it stopped.”
Prior to México, Lappi had made a bright start to his maiden season with the M-Sport Ford team, finishing fourth in Monte Carlo and fifth on round two in Sweden.
2018 Finnish national champion Eerik Pietarinen will now lead the field away on the 15-mile, three-stage Jämsä Äijät Ralli on Saturday in his Škoda Fabia R5.