Two weeks after the Ford Fiesta, shared by Esapekka Lappi and his co-driver Janne Ferm, burst into flames during the Rally of Mexico, third round of the WRC 2020 calendar, the incident remains unclear.
Luckily both athletes escaped unharmed, and the debris resulted from the fire were moved to M-Sport headquarters in Great Britain.
After inspecting the condition of the car resulting from the fire, M-Sport team manager Richard Millener said he did not have much hope of finding out the causes of the event. When asked about possible clues or evidence to help clarify what happened at Guajanauto Rally he assured that “we are investigating, but since almost everything has been destroyed, it will be difficult to find something“.
😱 @EsapekkaLappi ´s car on fire, now stopped in SS7 (crew OK)
— WRC – FIA World Rally Championship (@OfficialWRC) March 13, 2020
Millener said that “we have been watching the on-board cameras footage many times, and it seems that the fire might have originated in the front of the car. In fact you can see the flames under the hood.
However, when the car started moving, the flames possibly traveled down the transmission tunnel, and all that heat and oxygen generated the perfect breeding ground for the fire to originate”.
Like the rest of the park service in the Guajanauto round, the head of the English team watched live what was happening and said that to see the flames at the rear of the car was even more dangerous and dramatic.
— Esapekka Lappi Rally (@EsapekkaLappi) March 13, 2020
“From the moment you see the rear of the car on fire, you know that’s fatal. In fact, once certain elements begin to be calcined, it is very difficult to extinguish. For example, (in these circumstances) a tire is like a long-lasting lighter, since these materials continue to feed the blaze.”, Millener explained.
The incident originated in the second pass through the ‘El Chocolate’ stage during the Aztec race, when the flames apparently emerged behind the car. The virulence and speed of the fire was such that despite all the efforts to smother it, it continued to intensify and ended up calcinating the Cumbrian machine just in a few minutes.
Lappi also doesn’t know what happened
A direct witness to what happened, Lappi, who tries to defuse the dangerous situation he experienced, considers that the fire is not related to the brake system.
“I don’t think it was due to a leak of brake fluid or anything like that. In fact, the brake pedal remained steady. I don’t know, but it must have been something related to fuel or oil for it to spread so fast. ”
Regarding the incident, he said that he acted quickly, but it all happened very fast, “There was no warning in the middle of the stage. I drove away from the racing line because that’s what you should do when you have a small fire. But this time, there was nothing we could do”.
After approaching the podium (fourth) in the opening round in Monte Carlo and finishing fifth in Sweden, the head of the M-Sport team arrived very excited to the North American test. However, everything went wrong for the Nordic from the very shakedown (Thursday) rally, when they were forced to replace the differential.
Subsequently, the sensations with the correct transmission were very positive, similar to those obtained with the Citroën at the Finland Rally 2019. However, his participation in the race ended abruptly after his car was put out in flames on Friday.
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