Blog: Should Lappi continue in Finland after his roll?

Esapekka Lappi’s last day at Rally Finland undoubtedly overshadowed Ott Tanak’s third win and Hyundai’s maiden victory there, but there are many question marks if he should or not continue on the last stage of the event.

To begin with, the Toyota driver rolled his Yaris three times in Stage 21 when he ran wide on a left-hander and his car dug into the ruts. His roll has as a result the roof scoop, the half roof, the wing mirrors and the upper part of the roof spoiler of his car to be missing while he had to remove the windscreen after the regroup zone to start in Powerstage. Due to the fact that the most part of the roof, the wing mirrors and the upper part of the roof spoiler were missing, his Yaris lacked aerodynamics and had less downforce and drag which means that it was less stable on the stage and this was the reason why he did not drive so fast on the final stage of his home event. In addition to that, the missing windscreen was too dangerous for him and his co-driver, Janne Ferm, because there were big chances to get injured by the trees in case of an exit. As Rally Finland includes gravel stages, there was a possibility to get hurt if a rock jumped up the bonnet (remember that Lappi’s windscreen was cracked in Stage 15 on Saturday as the front end of his GR Yaris Rally1 car threw a rock up and came back into the windscreen). This was another reason why they drove so slowly and carefully in that stage. But it looks like that FIA turned a blind eye and did not give any penalty for this (according to sporting regulations, it is legal for a crew to participate in a stage without windscreen if both of them are wearing goggles or full face helmet with closed visor, but it is illegal to drive with a cracked windscreen). For instance, Kris Meeke received a one-minute time penalty at Rally Chile in 2019 for safety reasons when he removed the cracked windscreen of his Yaris at the end of Stage 7 resulting in dropping to tenth from eighth place overall whereas Lappi did not receive a penalty for driving with a cracked windscreen in SS15 of Rally Finland. Last but not least, EP drove totally in blind in PS as he was not able to listen to the pacenotes whereas Ferm had difficulty to hold his pad and to read the pacenotes.

On the other hand, it was remarkable that the Finnish crew managed to repair the radiator leak on the road section after SS21 and to arrive at regroup zone for tyre fitting. Not only they fixed the radiator, but they put water from a lake to it to be able to continue. Toyota mechanics and FIA gave them the green light to compete in Powerstage as the roll cage had no impact and the bombshell was undamaged. To protect themselves from the dust, the pair wore goggles for the final stage of Sunday. Their hard work behind the scenes in combination with the Yaris’s appearance reminded us the past and Colin McRae when the last one crashed in Cyprus with the Ford Focus RS WRC twenty years ago. Furthermore, Lappi and Ferm totally deserved to be on the podium of Rally Finland considering their pace throughout last weekend. In fact, Toyota mechanics estimated that the crew would lose approximately 20,6 seconds and probably the podium, but they managed to lose only 10 seconds in Powerstage and to hold their third place.

Although FIA’s and stewards’ decision to allow the Finns continue in Powerstage of Rally Finland has dichotomized the world of rallying, the priority should always be the safety and the protection of the crews that put their lives in danger in every race and, in this case, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm were in danger at their home event.

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