Hyundai driver Lappi aims for top three finish at Safari Rally

Hyundai driver Esapekka Lappi in action at the Rally Italia Sardegna. [Courtesy]

Hyundai Motorsport is looking forward to replicate the impressive performance in Italy early this month at the WRC Safari Rally that revs off in Naivasha on Thursday.

Hyundai bagged a 1-2 finish in the sixth leg dubbed Rally Italia Sardegna and this is what hey are targeting in the seventh leg in Naivasha.

"We have the speed now, so we are aiming for a top-three finish in the Safari Rally," Hyundai speedster Esapekka Lappi told Standard Sports in a statement yesterday.

It will be Lappi's first time in the Safari and in Africa and the 32-year-old Finn is excited.

"Obviously, I have no experience compared to everyone else and everything will be new to me, so my target has to be to finish without any issues and hopefully be on the podium again, the way I did it in Italy," Lappi said.

Hyundai will be represented in the gruelling Safari Rally by Lappi who will be navigated by Janne Ferm who will also be touring Africa for the first time.

Others are Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe and Daniel Sordo/Candido Carrera.

As a way of honouring its Kenyan fans, the constructor will ferry 150 local spectators to watch the Safari Rally.

"The fans will be given VIP treatment in Naivasha, this has been made possible by our key partners Shell Kenya, RentCo Africa and Mitchell Cotts.

"The spectators will enjoy a five-star treatment brunch on top of a hill while watching the rally spectacle unfold," Hyundai Kenya Sales Manager, Silvanus Wambua said.

Wambua has tipped Lappi, who was second in Italy, to win the Kenyan race.

"I'm rooting for Lappi because of the speed he displayed in Italy, he was absolutely remarkable all the way through," Wambua said.

"Neuville has had challenges in the Safari, but it seems he has come off the blocks, I believe in his determination and confidence, so far so good for him this season," Wambua said.

"I'm also predicting that Sordo will make it to the podium in Naivasha," Wambua added.

Wambua believes Hyundai will soon close in on the gap between them and series leaders Toyota Gazoo Racing who are topping the constructors charts on 235 points as Hyundai follows on 212.

"With the new manager Cyril Abiteboul, things have started to turn around for Hyundai, we are gradually closing the gap, expect more wins going forward," he said.

Wambua believes a 1-2-3 finish for Hyundai in Naivasha is possible stating that they currently have the best cars in the trade which can easily conquer the tough Kenyan terrains.

"Last year, we had mechanical problems but things are looking so bright this season, expect upsets in the Safari Rally," he said.

Wambua reiterated that consistency and durability is what has made Hyundai vehicles to perform well in the annual series that has 13 legs this year and on the rough Kenyan terrains.

Sadly, Hyundai will not be in Naivasha with their prolific driver Craig Breen who passed away on April 13 after a car crash in a testing session in the fourth leg, the Croatia Rally.

Since then, world motorsports governing body FIA has retired Breen's car number 42 from the series.

"I would also like to take a moment to mention Craig. He remains a part of our team, and our success, and the win in Sardinia was very much for him," Abiteboul said.

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