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WRC Rally Sweden

Lappi: Fighting for podiums the minimum target on WRC return

Toyota’s Esapekka Lappi says he feels ready to make the most of his second chance in the World Rally Championship revealing that fighting for podiums is his minimum target.

Esapekka Lappi, Toyota Gazoo Racing

The Finn is set to embark on a part-time WRC campaign with the reigning world champion Toyota squad beginning at Rally Sweden this weekend.

Lappi has rejoined the Toyota squad, whom he began his top flight WRC career with in 2017, to pilot the third GR Yaris he will share with eight-time world champion Sebastien Ogier.

It is expected the 31-year-old will contest the majority of the rounds with Ogier only likely to compete in as many as five rallies this year, including last month’s Monte Carlo opener where the Frenchman finished second.

Lappi’s return to rallying’s top tier arrives after dropping out of the WRC last year. He last drove an M-Sport Ford in 2020 following a disappointing 2019 campaign driving for Citroen in what was the French marque’s final season.

Now armed with a chance to showcase his talent again, Lappi says he’s poised to capitalise on his lifeline with Toyota to rebuild his WRC career.

“I think I’m quite ready for it but like before I think I will not stress about it,” Lappi told Motorsport.com.

“I think my mindset is pretty good. I will try to be more relaxed than before and that is what I tried to do last year in the few races I had. I will try to continue the same approach.”

This weekend’s first competitive outing in the new GR Yaris will be Lappi’s first event since finishing fourth in a one-off drive, that proved to be an audition for the Toyota seat, at Rally Finland last October.

However, Lappi has been steadily adapting to the new 2022 hybrid Toyota in testing and believes he can be on the pace on the Swedish snow.

“I am very excited about this moment. To be competing at the highest level once more is something I have been looking forward to for a long time,” he added.

“It has felt very natural to be working with the team again over the last few weeks and through testing.

“My feeling in the GR Yaris Rally1 was already quite good from the beginning and it’s been getting better step by step.

“I think the events I did with a Rally2 car last year are helping me a lot to understand how best to drive these cars.

“Rally Sweden is an event I have always enjoyed and I have always been competitive there. We need to remember that it’s been five months since my last rally, but I believe we can be on the pace and I want to fight for the podium – that’s my minimum target. It won’t be easy but I feel it’s possible.”

Rally Sweden is set to be contested over 17 special stages, with the action beginning on Friday. The rally was originally going to feature 19 stages, but a herd of reindeer has forced the organisers to cancel two stages. 

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