Lappi identifies key weakness Hyundai must address 

Esapekka Lappi

Hyundai Motorsport “has a job to do” if it hopes to keep pace with runaway leaders Toyota Gazoo Racing in the FIA World Rally Championship title race this season, according to Esapekka Lappi.

Following his third-place finish for the South Korean manufacturer on last weekend’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal, Lappi said the team needed to go back to the drawing board to improve the competitiveness of their i20 N Rally1, particularly on gravel.

Portugal signalled the first of seven consecutive loose surface rounds on this season’s Championship calendar, with Rally Italia Sardegna up next (June 1-4).

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In the post-Rally de Portugal press conference Lappi revealed that, in the closing miles of the Matosinhos-based event, his car developed a turbo failure similar to what team-mate Thierry Neuville experienced. While it didn’t place the Finn’s position under threat, the time lost by Neuville dropped him two places to fifth.

Asked what area he felt needs to come under the microscope, Lappi simply said “grip” due to the advantage the Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 appears to enjoy, as demonstrated by new points leader and rally winner Kalle Rovanpera.

“[We had] a little too much action on the final day for our team in terms of technical issues, both for Thierry and then myself right at the end,” he said.

“Two kilometres from the end of the last stage, we picked up a problem with our turbo as well … but I’m sure the team will carefully investigate the issues so they don’t happen again, and we can be better in the next rounds.”

Rovanpera set fastest times on ten of the 19 Rally de Portugal special stages; on Saturday’s opener he swept all before him, traversing Vieira Do Minho 12.8 seconds quicker than the rest of the field.

“It was disappointing to see Kalle beating us six-zero all the time,” admitted Lappi whose performance, said Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul, was “cementing his position in the Hyundai Motorsport family”.

“Even on Friday, he was not really opening the road but was almost opening the road and still he could do similar times to us,” continued Lappi. “Then, with similar road positions [on Saturday and Sunday], he beat us by 100 percent.

“That’s a bit disappointing to see that kind of pace from another team. I guess it is also showing us that we have a job to do as a team to try and develop the car harder and be better in the future.”

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