Lappi feared Power Stage error cost him Rally Finland win
Rally Finland winner Esapekka Lappi has admitted he feared his maiden WRC victory had gone when he made a mistake during the final stage of the event.
Defending a 37.8s lead going into the final Oittila test, Lappi fully intended to take his time and make a safe passage through the Power Stage, but a mistake born out of conservative approach very nearly cost him dearly.
“It’s not so easy to drive a car like this when you are not pushing,” Lappi said, who went on to win his only fourth rally in a WRC car.
“It’s not like the R5 car; the aero and the centre diff are not working so efficiently when you drive like this.
"I went to one corner a little bit early and it tightened, a rear tyre dropped off the road and it broke the rim.
"I wanted to kill myself at this moment. I really thought something was broken on the car.
“But I was following like Kris Meeke [in Mexico] and having some drama before the victory.
"I have never had the feeling like this to win before, it’s incredible. The emotion has been incredible. Still, I don’t understand what has happened, what I have achieved.”
Lappi’s countryman and team principal Tommi Makinen understood those feelings: “When I won here for the first time in 1994, it was unbelievable; I remember that moment every day.”
Toyota more competitive since Sweden win
Makinen added that Lappi’s victory was a truer representation of the Yaris WRC’s pace than Jari-Matti Latvala’s Rally Sweden success in February.
“Winning the second round of the championship was another special moment, but maybe we weren’t ready to be so strong as a team," he added.
"After the next round in Mexico we knew what the work we need to do with the car.
"We did a lot on the suspension, we look at what’s making the car work on the road and this was where the biggest changes were coming in the car.
"We kept up the development work and in Poland we know we are on the good level and that gave us confidence to come here.”
Makinen was quick to praise his team, based just up the road from Jyvaskyla in Puuppola, after what had been an intense year of preparation for Toyota’s return to the world championship.
“This has been a very, very long weekend for the team,” he said. “But everybody worked so hard for this and we will all remember this one for a long time.
"What we have done this week is show we are a strong team and we are all together.”
With the bulk of the Yaris’ testing work being done on the fast Finnish roads, it came as no surprise to many that the car was so quick – but that’s a major turnaround from a year ago, when Makinen was roundly and regularly criticised for his approach to the programme.
That criticism was, he says, water off a duck’s back.
“It didn’t bother me at all,” he said. “It did get a bit personal for the team and this was not so nice, but we are here now.”
Rally Finland "a perfect weekend" despite only sixth, says Neuville
Meeke: Finland performance "hangover" from being dropped