Unusually for a Scandinavian, Esapekka Lappi began racing competitively on tarmac through karting, at just six years old. He answered a few questions as he talked to us about his special relationship with driving on asphalt.
It’s pretty unusual for a Finnish rally driver to have begun in karting…
“Yes, that’s true! When I was six years old, I wanted to follow in my older brother’s footsteps and have a go. I did it more and more, and I kept racing until I was sixteen. Among the Finnish rally drivers to have burst onto the scene recently, I was the first to have followed this path. Since then, there has also been Teemu Suninen, with whom I used to be team-mates, but also Kalle Rovanperä and Jari Huttunen.”
Why did you end up switching to rally driving?
“At the time, I dreamed of becoming a F1 driver, but ultimately, I’m very pleased with how things have worked out! I was Finnish champion in 2007 at the highest level at the time and I also competed in the European championship, but I stopped because there were no prospects. Continuing to compete in karting or even attempting to compete in the lowest levels of single-seater racing was too expensive. In rallying, you can access the same level for a more reasonable amount of expenditure. The sport also gets coverage on television in Finland, so it’s easier to find partners to help financially, whereas nobody knows about the lower categories of circuit racing.”
How do you think your karting experience helps you in rallying?
“At the very beginning, when I started rallying, it was perhaps an advantage mentally speaking, compared with the guys I was competing against at the time. Let’s say that I had competitive experience. I knew what it was about and was used to being under pressure to perform. Obviously, with the guys I am competing against now, this is no longer an advantage! However, on events like the Tour de Corse or Rally de España, I think karting helps me to judge the roads really well in recce and find the right lines once the race starts, especially on long corners that open and then tighten again. I think karting has helped fine-tune my sense of where the racing line is.”
What memories do have about your three previous appearances in Corsica?
“In 2014, I became European Rally champion here, but I went off the road, so perhaps it wasn’t my finest moment! However, despite the puncture on the penultimate stage, last year’s rally was one of the highlights of our season.”
The 2007 Tour de Corse was crucial in Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia joining Citroën Racing and in making the step up to the WRC the following year. Here, we explain why…
One of the zero cars at the 2007 Tour de Corse, held in mid-October that year, was a Peugeot 206 Cup backed by the FFSA’s Rallye-Jeunes (Young Drivers) initiative and driven by two young men who had yet to make a real name for themselves, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. In only their second season in rallying, they had just won the Peugeot 206 Cup in France with four overall wins, three on gravel (Rallye Terres de Langres, Rallye Terre du Diois and Rallye Terre des Causses) and one on the damp, slippery asphalt roads of the Rallye Le Touquet. Their potential was there for all to see but their future was still undecided. It was at that year’s Tour de Corse that the foundations of their 2008 Junior World championship programme were laid between Citroën Racing, ever faithful to its culture of promoting talented young drivers, and the French Rally Federation. The rest, as they say, is history…