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Lappi thought drought-ending Sweden WRC win would never come

Esapekka Lappi had thoughts that a second career World Rally Championship win would never arrive before recording a drought-ending triumph at Rally Sweden.

Winner Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

The Hyundai driver beat Toyota’s Elfyn Evans by 29.6 seconds across Sweden’s 18 snow stages to clinch a first win since his breakthrough 2017 Rally Finland victory.

The success ended a 2,394 day wait to stand on the top step of a WRC top tier podium, following his Finland win, 60 rallies ago when driving for Toyota.

The Finn, competing in the first round of a partial programme this year, made the most of a favourable road position to emerge with a 3.2s rally lead on Friday night, assisted by early leader Kalle Rovanpera crashing out on stage four.

Lappi then saw off a challenge from Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta before going on to cruise through the remaining stages to claim a long awaited victory.

“It feels bloody good. I don’t know how to explain it,” Lappi told Autosport.

“For sure you realise it [what it means]. I’m glad it is over. When you are not in a fight you just want to see the finish line, and now I have crossed it everything is done."

Lappi has found himself in several winning situations over the last six and half years, but at the end of last season he felt that another win was never going to eventuate.

“I lost it [belief] for sure. At the end of last year for sure I felt it [a win] would not come anymore as I didn’t even know if we were driving, so for sure I was not really believing it anymore. but maybe that is the trick.”

Among his best opportunities to end his win drought emerged last season when he was leading in Sardinia but ultimately lost out to team-mate Thierry Neuville, as Hyundai had made it clear that the former was the team’s number one driver and best shot at the title.

Winner Esapekka Lappi, Hyundai World Rally Team

Winner Esapekka Lappi, Hyundai World Rally Team

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

“Well I don’t think it makes up for all of the near misses but for sure last year in Sardinia I really thought could have [a chance] and I wanted to fight for it, but that was not really the case,” he added. “But maybe this makes up for that.”

Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul believes the victory will provide Lappi a boost in confidence and morale moving forward.

“I think this win will bring his morale and confidence up for the whole team and probably shows why he is here and why the third car is composed in such a way,” he added.

“He is a very honest and transparent person, and he has mentioned that he would like to win with a more direct fight. He is a genuine person, and he wants to have straight forward battle and that is not exactly what he had this weekend, and when that comes he will use the confidence from today in order to get to the next stage.”

Lappi is expected to drive Hyundai’s third car at the next round of the WRC in Kenya from 28-31 March.

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