Esapekka Lappi is a Finnish rally driver who currently competes with Toyota Gazoo Racing in the FIA World Rally Championship. He joined Toyota in manufacturer's return to WRC in 2017, scoring his maiden WRC victory at 2017 Rally Finland.
Prior to his deal with Toyota, Lappi already had a stellar career, capturing three major championship titles. First, he was the Finnish rally champion in 2012. In 2013, he joined Škoda Motorsport and won the European Rally Championship in 2014. In 2016, Lappi became the world champion, winning the WRC-2 title with Škoda.
Finnish karting champion before switching to rally
Born in January 1991 in Pieksämäki, Finland, Esapekka Lappi started his racing career in karting competitions in 2003. He reached a peak in 2007, winning the Finnish ICA Karting Championship and taking the third place in Formula A Karting Championship.
In 2007, he switched his interest to rallying, participating in his first rallysprint event in an Opel Astra GSi. He waited to be 18 years old to begin rally career in 2009. In the next two seasons, he expanded his rallying activities to more than ten events every year, driving a Honda Civic Type R. In 2010, Janne Ferm became his navigator in a rally car and they are still together.
Esapekka Lappi in 2012
Finnish rally champion with seven wins in seven events
After spending the season 2011 in the Printsport's Citroen C2 R2 Max and scoring two class wins in the Finnish rally championship, Lappi switched to Ford Fiesta S2000 for 2012.
In 2012, he had 100 percent winning ratio in the #7 Ford Fiesta, triumphing in all seven events of the Finnish rally championship and taking the most coveted national rally title in the world.
WRC debut at 2012 Rally Finland
In 2012, Lappi also made his WRC debut, participating at Rally Finland in Printsport's Ford Fiesta S2000. He finished 25th overall and fifth in SWRC category.
A few weeks later, he participated in one more WRC event, at ADAC Rallye Deutschland, not finishing the rally in a Citroen C2 R2 Max.
Esapekka Lappi joined Škoda Motorsport in 2012
First victory with Škoda Motorsport at 2012 Rally Poland
Near the end of 2012 season, Lappi signed a professional contract with Škoda Motorsport. He had a victorious debut in a Škoda Fabia S2000 at Rally Poland, a penultimate round of the European Rally Championship.
Until the end of the year, he participated in two more events with Škoda, winning the Kolsvarundan in Sweden and finishing seventh at Rallye Sierra Morena in Spain.
Lappi spent four successful seasons with Škoda
Asian-Pacific vice-champion in 2013
In 2013, his first full season with Škoda, Lappi had a wide schedule of rally events all around the world. His main competition was the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in which he scored three wins in a Škoda Fabia S2000, finishing as a runner-up behind another Škoda driver Gaurav Gill.
Lappi participated in three ERC events, finishing second at Rallye Sanremo and winning the Rallye du Valais. In the 2013 World Rally Championship, Lappi recorded three participations in WRC-2 class. He retired at Rallye Monte Carlo, won a class at Rallye Portugal and finished 11th in class at Rally Finland.
Esapekka Lappi (right) and Janne Ferm, the 2014 European rally champions
European rally champion in 2014
In 2014, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm captured their second championship title together. They scored three victories in the European Rally Championship, dominantly taking a championship trophy. They were winners at Rally Liepaja, Circuit of Ireland and Rallye du Valais.
Outside ERC, Lappi participated in just one Czech national event, the Rallye Česky Krumlov, not finishing the race.
Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm became world champions in 2016
WRC-2 champion in the second attempt
In 2015, Lappi and Škoda switched their focus on the WRC-2 category of the World Rally Championship, running a new Škoda Fabia R5. In seven events, Lappi was a winner at Rally Poland and Rally Finland, adding two more podiums (Portugal, Corsica). At the end of the season, he was third in the points, behind Nasser Al-Attiyah and Yuriy Protasov.
Next year, Lappi stayed in the WRC-2 competition, determined to take the title. And he did it, winning four events (Finland, Germany, UK, Australia) to beat Teemu Suninen and Elfyn Evans in the final standings. He also participated at Rallye Monte-Carlo, which was not a part of the WRC-2 schedule, finishing second in class.
Esapekka Lappi (right) and Janne Ferm at 2017 Rally Finland
Lappi had a part-time schedule, driving the #12 Toyota Yaris WRC in six events and the #11 Toyota at season's finale in Australia. The highlight of the season was his maiden WRC victory at his home event Rally Finland, ahead of Ford's Elfyn Evans and teammate Hanninen.