Esapekka Lappi secures Toyota seat for rest of 2017 WRC after Italy
|By David Evans||Wednesday, June 14th 2017, 09:44 GMT|
Toyota team principal Tommi Makinen has rewarded Esapekka Lappi's Rally Italy performance with a drive for the rest of the 2017 World Rally Championship season.
Lappi made his competition debut with Toyota in Portugal last month when the third Yaris WRC was ready.
His exact schedule for the rest of the year had not been confirmed and he was expected to sit out at least Rally Australia.
But Makinen told Autosport that was no longer an option after Lappi won the Sardinian powerstage on only his second ever drive in a World Rally Car.
Lappi set six fastest times in Italy and would have finished on the podium had it not been for losing second gear on the opening day. He took two of his stage wins even while grappling with that problem.
"I am surprised at how quickly Esapekka has been able to go," said Makinen.
"Normally it is taking one year to learn the World Rally Car, but he has jumped in and he feels comfortable straight away.
"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 and laughed off ideas that he could win next time out in Poland or the following event in his native Finland.
"I have learned the car for the slower-speed rallies," he said, "but now I need to learn it in the high speed.
"Yes, Finland is my natural habitat, but a win is not possible.
"I am surprised at what I have done [in Italy], but this comes from good motivation and a lot of work with the pace notes."