Keen for its line-up to feature two leading crews next year, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team has confirmed that Esapekka Lappi, and his co-driver Janne Ferm, will join its works team in 2019. The pair will join Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia who were announced as the first crew to join the Citroën Racing team last month.
True to its tradition of putting its faith in young drivers, and supporting them right through to the top of the sport, Citroën Racing has chosen the most promising youngster in the WRC, Esapekka Lappi.
The 27 year-old Finn has emerged in the last few seasons as a future champion and already has an impressive competitive record for someone with relatively limited experience (40 starts in the world championship, 19 of which were in a WRC car).
It was in 2012, at Rally Finland, that Esapekka first made his mark on the world rallying scene when, for long periods, he more than held his own against the dominant force of Sébastien Ogier in the same class. After claiming the Finnish Rally Championship that year, winning all seven rounds, he continued to improve, becoming European champion in 2014 and securing the WRC2 title in 2016.
Since the 2017 Rally de Portugal, where he made his WRC debut, Esapekka has continued to impress, establishing himself as a "Flying Finn", yet another talented driver from a country that has long punched above its weight in the world of rallying. His maiden win at his home round in Finland last year, in only his fourth outing in a WRC car, further cemented his growing reputation.
This season, Esapekka has once again confirmed his undoubted pace, showing consistency and speed on all surfaces (3rd in Sardinia, Germany and Wales). He currently lies fourth in the championship, behind three drivers who are fighting it out in one of the most closely contested title races in years. All of which suggests that with Janne Ferm, his co-driver since 2010, the pair will be perfectly complementary to Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, the first crew announced for next year's line-up. A powerful combination of experience and youth, the Ogier-Lappi pairing is unquestionably impressive, and will be tasked with winning on all surfaces from 2019.
WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal: "We were keen to sign two competitive crews for next year’s championship so we are delighted that Esapekka will be joining the team with his co-driver Janne Ferm. Putting faith in young drivers has always been a key element of our brand and Esapekka certainly has the ideal profile. Talented, determined and focused, he should form both a complementary and formidable pair with Sébastien. We feel there is still more to come from him, so we'll be doing what we can to get him in the best possible shape to help him continue his impressive rise through the ranks."
Esapekka Lappi: "Obviously, I'm delighted to be joining the team and to be the future team-mate of Sébastien; it’s a good opportunity for me to continue to develop. After learning many things from Jari-Matti Latvala last year, and from Ott Tänak this year, I'll have everything it takes to be even better if I also manage to draw inspiration from Sébastien. I'm convinced that the car has a lot of potential, as does the team, which has a long history and plenty of experience in the WRC. I’m looking forward to working with Pierre and the team; it’s going to be an exciting challenge to try to win together.”