Our video begins as they arrive at the end of the El Chocolate 2 stage with flames visible underneath the rear end of the car. Ferm exited the car, as marshals attempted to extinguish the fire without success, and Lappi then drove it away – unaware of how serious the situation was.
As the helicam images show, the fire took hold as Lappi drove down a forest track, and he parked the car in the middle of the road – away from the trees – before he jumped out. WRC+’s camera crew then caught up with him, as the car burned out behind him.
Asked when he first knew about the fire, he replied: “On the stop line, to be honest. When Janne opened the door he said ‘OK, this is burning now’. I didn't realise how big the fire was, so I tried to still drive, but [the fire] didn’t shut down.
“When I lost the brakes I realised it was still burning quite bad – and jumped out as quickly as I could!
“I don’t know what caused it as there was no issue on the stage and it was actually a pretty good time. We were going well and fighting for the podium, so it’s a really big disappointment for us and for the whole team. But everyone is okay, and that is the most important thing right now.”
The fire led to the cancellation of the following stage, as emergency services extinguished the conflagration. But car itself was beyond saving.
M-Sport’s team principal, Richard Millener, said of the fire: “It’s hard to tell exactly what happened, but it looks as though some hot oil may have leaked onto the exhaust. Everyone tried their best to put out the flames, but once these cars go up it’s almost impossible to stop – so full credit to Esapekka and Janne for getting it to a safe place. “
"It’s no secret that this loss will really have a big impact on M-Sport – and we don’t know when the championship will resume which makes the situation really difficult right now. But despite all of this and all of the repercussions, the most important thing is that everyone is safe and unharmed.”