WRC Rally Australia: Title beckons for young FInn
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WRC2 category title could bring career boost
The premier category WRC Manufacturers’, Driver’s and Co-drivers titles are already decided for 2016 as Rally Australia begins at Coffs Harbour today.
But for young Finnish driver Esapekka Lappi, who drives for the Skoda team, a world title in the second tier WRC2 category beckons and could bring a significant career boost.
Lappi, 25, needs to finish first or second in his Skoda Fabia R5 at the season finale to secure the WRC2 crown.
The WRC2 title allows drivers to select a programme comprising any seven of the 13 rounds.
Finland’s Teemu Sunninen (Skoda) and Welsh driver Elfyn Evans (Ford) have already contested seven events and share the series lead with 120 points. Lappi’s seventh event is Australia and he starts with 107 points.
It’s a task that looks relatively straight forward - with only five starters in the WRC2 category this weekend – but requires a solid debut appearance on the Coffs Coast roads and a trouble-free run.
And Lappi isn’t taking anything for granted in Australia in spite of the form he’s shown this year. From his six starts this year Lappi has won in Finland, Germany and Great Britain with drives that suggests he should outpace his four WRC2 rivals this weekend.
"We are aware this is motor sport and anything can happen," he said.
"We are not robots, we are human beings. We will try to avoid everything, but this is a long rally."
The Finn has been linked to a drive with the returning Toyota team in 2017 but those rumours have lost some momentum since the withdrawal of Volkswagen and its trio of drivers becoming free agents for next year.
Asked if winning the championship would help his chances of securing a drive at the top level in 2017, Lappi said: "For sure, if you are world champion it helps. That’s about it."
There’s a Kiwi connection to the early stages of Lappi’s career. The Finn won the Asia-Pacific series Rally of Whangarei in 2013 driving a Skoda S2000 for the Indian MRF Tyres team and finished runner-up in that year’s APRC.