The 25-year-old Esapekka Lappi took the WRC2 class World Championship in an undisputable way. The Finn won 22 out of the 23 stages in the Rally Australia. Nicolas Fuchs finished second in WRC2 class losing around four minutes to Lappi. It was almost taken for granted that Lappi would put on Toyota’s racing suit for next year in the World Rally Championship but Volkswagen’s pull-out has thrown a spanner in the works. With Andreas Mikkelsen, Jari-Matti Latvala and the four-time world champion Sebastien Ogier becoming free agents you really have to have good argument to pass on these three drivers for a rookie, no matter how promising. It would still seem Lappi has provided the proof for Toyota to hire him instead of the ex-Volkswagen drivers. Well, instead of Latvala and Mikkelsen anyway as Ogier will probably end up at M-Sport.
Esapekka Lappi has dominated the WRC2 series and with a season finish as strong as he had in Australia he truly deserves a shot in the big league. But it must also be said that the Latvala and Mikkelsen didn’t have their best season at all last year even though their teammate Ogier took the championship yet again. Latvala has been a long time in WRC and I must raise the question if he still has what it takes. It also hasn’t seemed there is any interest towards him in any other teams except Toyota, no doubt partly because of a Finnish team boss Tommi Mäkinen.
Mikkelsen might land a seat at some other team, but to be fair his high light of the season came late, in the last rally of the season. Not the most flattering fact for the Norwegian. Lappi has steadily dominated the WRC2 series and so it could be that there won’t be the name Jari-Matti Latvala anywhere in sight when 2017 comes around. But that shouldn’t mean lack of Finnish success, a hungry rookie full of ambition taking his place wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.