Its origin is unknown but when the epithet, ‘faster than God’, started to do the rounds of the online media, Esapekka Lappi would respond with a shrug and sheepish grin. Since then, the novelty has worn off, and though a mention still makes the 22-year-old Finn wince, he ensures to convey his displeasure.
“I was never comfortable but mentioning it once in a while was okay. It has become repetitive and that’s too much,” said the MRF-Skoda driver after building a cushion of 33.3 seconds over teammate Gaurav Gill. If at all a tag is required, he would like to have a say in it. “How about the ‘Flying Finn’, sounds much better,” he said with a laugh.
That the road conditions at Rally Whangarei, the opening leg of the 2013 Asia Pacific Rally Championship, are similar to home, have made his opening easier. The basic nature may have been the same but what Lappi exploited in his Skoda Fabia S2000 on Saturday were the cambers (arcs), which he says are “not so big” in Finland.
Plenty on offer, they (cambers) helped Lappi set the pace. “I got into a rhythm and it was a matter of carrying on,” he said, the head swaying to indicate the fluency of his run. But for Stages II and IV, when Gill took centrestage, Lappi was the quite the flavour of the day.
Gill’s been in the business long enough to fret but that episode during Stage III was a feature. Coming downhill, the Indian hit the brakes too hard, which caused the engine to die. The bid to restart and takeoff cost him 16 seconds. Taking to rallying at this level after seven months, the rust took time to shake off. Gill was content to finish second. The plan is to attack Lappi's lead on the final day.
The writer's trip has been sponsored by MRF.