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GP Week : Issue 164
WRC >>> NEWS at BRIEFLY » Skoda Germany driver Sepp Wiegand will drive a Fabia S2000 as third official VW team driver in Rallye Deutschland next to Ogier and Mikkelsen. » No sooner has the NORF passed through Lahti than the city of Lahti prepares itself to greet European Historic Sporting Rally championship competitors one week later. » The works Fiestas of Latvala and Solberg will appear in a new livery in Finland. The team says this one-off change of colours is to highlight the company’s Eco Boost engine technology, and the new livery will feature also on NASAR Sprint Cup cars and their Chinese Touring Car championship cars. » Meanwhile Chris Atkinson brings his own colours to put on the Qatar World Rally Team car he will drive in place of Nasser Al Attiyah (below). » Former Mini works driver Kris Meeke won the Lurgan Park Rally, one of three Minis WRCs to finish in the top six places on this single-venue event in Northern Ireland. Few rally fans outside Finland have heard of Esapekka Lappi; far fewer will have met him, but it has been a long time since Finnish motorsport has witnessed such a rise to fame for a young driver. This is the third full rally season for the young ex-karter, now 21 years old. After competing in under-age Junior rallysprint events (in which he became Finnish junior champion in 2008) he progressed to national level sport with a Honda Civic in 2010, ending the season third in the national two-wheel- drive category. For 2011 he moved on to a Citroen C2 which brought various misfortunes but ended in notable success. He entered the 2011 NORF, his first WRC event, and won his class ahead of Jukka Korhonen’s Fiesta R2. This year he took a major step for ward going four-wheel-drive, taking a Fiesta S2000 into the Finnish national series which for this class was unknown ground, where Group N cars had long been dominant. He immediately started winning. On his second event in the car, the Arctic Rally, Finland’s traditionally second most important event, he became the youngest ever winner. Suddenly he was hot property, at least in Scandinavia. One of the first companies to notice the latest star in the rally sky was Even Rally, the professional career- enhancement operation based in Nor way. Their activities are broad based supporting three drivers: Andreas Mikkelsen from Nor way itself, Pontus Tidemand from Sweden – and now Esapekka from Finland. Even promoter Erik Veiby said: "We spotted his talent in September last year, after the NORF. We invited him to meet us and we had a test, and were impressed by his attitudes and driving talent. We offered him a ‘Development contract’ to help him with equipment and support. When they saw that he won all the first five top Finnish championship rallies he then had a couple of tests with Skoda Motorsport, who had the same reaction as we had. We have now offered him a full time contract, like we also have with Andreas. We are planning to announce this officially during NORF this year.” Rally drivers do not appear out of nowhere. The Lappi family business is forestry, transporting and marketing trees, and comes from Pieksamaki, a town traditionally closely connected with the NORF, nowhere near Lapland, from which the family name is derived! His father used to drive rallies as a hobby but finding the means to run Esapekka’s rally cars was another matter, and Even approached a local, Jyvskylan company called Printsport, run by Eero (no relation!) Raikkonen, which is based at Lievestuore, the closest town to the NORF’s famous stage Ruuhimaki. Printing? What means Printsport? A long story, but the name was pinched from Eero’s father’s company. When he funded the car preparation company in 1997 he wanted to expand the business successes of his forefathers. Printsport has had several well known customers over the years, including Jukka Korhonen, Juha Salo and in earlier times Kosti Katajamaki as well as circuit racing teams. The arrival of Esapekka at Printsport has brought their activities into a higher gear. They now have three Fiesta S2000s. The Jyvaskyla rally is one more major step for ward for Esapekka: “I have found it is quite easy to drive a S2000 compared with the old R2 cars up to a certain level, but it is quite difficult to exploit the capability of the cars and get the most out of them." Jyvaskyla is daunting. It could just be the first time he does not win in his Fiesta. LAPPI WHO? Four Day Rally in Sardinia Finally released by the organisers of the Italian round of the 2012 WRC are details of the route. This year the rally will be extended from three to four days, starting with a single marathon 48km stage on the Thursday afternoon, followed by a group of stages in the far north-west of the island, close to Sassari, on the Friday. The rest of the event (18-21 October) lies in familiar territory, with the headquarters, central service park, start and finish at Olbia. These details were released by Angelo Sticchi Damiani (above), the new President of the Italian federation ACI. He expressed his gratitude to top members of the FIA, including Jarmo Mahonen (President of the World Rally Championship Commission), who “have always shown great support to Rally Italia Sardegna” and for providing a place for their event in the 2013 WRC Calendar as well. In recent years the FIA had strongly advocated the cause of the Italian WRC round being held on the Italian mainland, not on islands such as Sardinia or Sicily. 15 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: