The Finn declared Friday as one of the best days of his World Rally Championship career after holding off eight-time world champion Sebastian Ogier to build a 5.3s lead into Saturday.
However, Lappi’s hard work was undone in an instant when he misjudged a left-hander that resulted in a heavy crash on Stage 11 (Ibarrilla), the first test of the day.
The former Toyota driver ran wide and dragged the nose of his i20 N into an embankment, which fired the car across the road where it came to rest after rear-ending a telegraph pole. Lappi and co-driver Jonne Ferm avoided injury.
Lappi revealed that oil from a canister positioned on the top of the felled telegraph pole dropped onto his car and trickled down to the engine bay, which ignited a small fire.
The 2017 Rally Finland winner used all of his car’s fire extinguishers to tackle the fire before eventually getting control of the fire when WRC2 driver Gus Greensmith arrived at the scene and handed him another fire extinguisher.
The fire was eventually put out by firefighters that arrived on the scene later.
Reflecting on the crash, Lappi believes it was the result of not pushing hard enough in the stage.
“It might sound crazy to you but I felt like I was driving too slow,” said Lappi.
“When you drive more safe it is actually more difficult and I believe this happened now. I drove a bit too safe.
“I think I was a bit caught out. There is a right with a cut and it goes straight to a left over a crest so I think I was a bit caught out with this cut.
“There was a delay on the entry to the left and we went wide where the exit narrows and we hit a bank which spun us out immediately and then we hit with the rear, the electricity pole.
“It was very very unfortunate. It is hard to swallow but on the other hand when you fight for the win you still need to push and maybe I was not pushing hard enough actually.
“I didn’t have the correct rhythm and I was not maybe having the same flow when you really push and attack, I was just bit too late on the entry.”
Lappi was convinced his i20 N would become engulfed by flames and he would lose the car completely.
While it looks unlikely the car will return to the stages on Sunday, he thanked Greensmith for his help in dealing with the fire.
“I managed to shut it [the fire] down. It seems there was an oil canister on the top of the pole which actually spread all of the oil on top of our car and it went down to the engine bay,” he added.
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