FINNISH star Esapekka Lappi has earned himself a trip back to Kennards Hire Rally Australia after his stunning performance on Rally Italia Sardegna last weekend.
The young Toyota Gazoo team driver, who clinched the WRC2 driver’s title with Skoda at last year’s Rally Australia, finished fourth outright in Sardinia and won six stages including the Power Stage in only his second event in a Toyota Yaris World Rally Car.
Lappi missed the first five rallies of the season, with Toyota starting the year as a two-car outfit, and had been expected to sit out at least Rally Australia in the future.
However, Toyota team principal Tommi Makinen told Autosport.com that Lappi’s performance in Italy had earned him a full-time seat for the rest of the season, including Rally Australia on the Coffs Coast on 16-19 November.
“Normally it is taking one year to learn the World Rally Car, but he has jumped in and he feels comfortable straight away,” Makinen told Autosport.
“He has some massive potential now and I don’t think it will be long before we see him on the podium. He will be in the car all of the time now, he will do every rally – he has to.”
Lappi echoed his team principal’s surprise at his speed, but laughed off suggestions he could win next time out in Poland at the end of this month or the following event in his native Finland.
“I heave learned the car for the slower-speed rallies, but now I need to learn it in the high speed. Yes, Finland is my natural habitat, but a win is not possible,” he said.