It was one of the most talked about World Rally Championship communications in years. Or at least a year since the last controversial bulletin from Paris (the one about Kris Meeke).
Last November, Citroen revealed its decision to walk away from the World Rally Championship. A decision, it said, which was based around lead driver Sébastien Ogier’s decision to step out of the C3 WRC and into Toyota’s Yaris WRC.
And it expressed that in a way that carried a pretty blunt assessment of its alternative driver options:
“Citroën decided to withdraw from its WRC programme in 2020 due to the absence of a first-class driver available for 2020 season.”
To blame one driver for the loss of the whole programme is like the top of the cake and there is something underneath for sureEsapekka Lappi
Much of the sympathy at that time was felt for Esapekka Lappi, Ogier’s team-mate but by implication not “first-class” in Citroën’s eyes.
The rest of the team, we were told, would be found work in PSA Motorsport’s other programmes. Lappi’s skills, however, wouldn’t transfer to Formula E or endurance racing.
Lappi said little about those words at the time, but he recently told DirtFish he could see why the words had caused offence to some.
They didn’t really bother him, though.
Now an M-Sport Ford World Rally Team driver, Lappi said: “To blame one driver [Ogier] for the loss of the whole programme is like the top of the cake and there is something underneath for sure.
“I don’t know what these things were.”
He even accepts that he could see where Citroën was coming from with its apparent jibe.
“To say there were not any top drivers available, it sounds bad. But I kind of understand what they mean,” Lappi added.
“I think some of this was a little bit lost in translation. It didn’t feel so bad for me.
“I’m not ready to fight for the title, that’s the realism and I think that’s what they were talking about.
“For sure it sounds bad, but I didn’t take it that way.”