Citroën’s Rally Finland Notebook by Janne Ferm
Esapekka Lappi’s co-driver talked to Citroën Racing about his special relationship with Rally Finland. His thoughts paint an interesting picture, as is always the case when people sitting in the “crazy seat” decide to talk.
How old were you when you went to your first Rally Finland?
“I’m told that I was three years old, in 1983, when I first came to Rally Finland. But the first memories that I have go back to 1985 or 86, during the golden era of the Group B cars. We used to camp in the forest and I can still hear the sweet noise of the exhausts back firing at daybreak! My dad was a co-driver on little local rallies back then, so I went along with him on the majority of the racing weekends. That was my hobby for many years.”
Did you become a co-driver to follow in the footsteps of your father?
“Maybe or perhaps it was because I didn’t know how to drive! To be honest, I never dreamed of becoming a racing driver. Perhaps I have the right brain for it, but I obviously don’t have the talent in my hands. Like all Finns, I’ve obviously had a go at driving on frozen lakes, but if you lose control of the car on the gravel roads here, then you’re better off keeping out of the forests!”
You’ve just reached the 100 rally mark with Esapekka in Estonia. Had you thought about turning professional one day?
“It probably seems a bit odd, but I never saw things like that. I got into rallying because I thought it was fun and being paid to do something you enjoy is even better. With Esapekka, we said we would try and go as far as possible and be as professional as we could. We’ve already come a long way together, although we have to keep working hard and fine-tuning the slightest details, so we can continue to improve.”
What did it feel like when you won the 2017 Rally Finland?
“Oh my God! It all went by so quickly, in my mind. When we lined up the start in 2017, we knew we had the speed. What we didn’t know was whether we could be consistent throughout the weekend. In the end, we did have the consistency needed to win this rally. We had dreamed so much about winning it. It’s difficult to put what went through my mind into words… it’s OUR rally, where we were born. It’s also special because this event is like no other, where you just get this magical feeling from driving flat out and flying from one jump to the next.”
What is your favourite stage?
“I’ve always loved the long version of Ouninpohja. It’s the ultimate challenge.”
Which spectator spot would you recommend?
“The crossing on Kakaristo, which is the shortened version of the Ouninpohja stage. There are always a lot of fans and a great atmosphere. One day, after I retire, I would love to go there as a fan!”
Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm made their world championship debut in a Citroën C2 R2 Max at the 2011 Rally Finland. Esapekka recalls…
“Obviously, I still have some very good memories from that year, especially as we finished first in our category after winning eleven out of the twenty-two stages. And yet we drove 70% of Saturday’s leg with a clutch issue. I lost time at the start as I was fearful of going flat out. Afterwards, I managed to go for it in the big ruts that had appeared by the time we were on stage, given our position way down the running order. It was our own car. I went to pick it up at Satory in 2010 and that was the first time I had visited the plant! I remember how impressed I was by the enthusiasm of the fans and the number of spectators, even on the road sections. For us, coming from the Finnish championship, it really was a whole new level.”