Thursday, August 13, 2015

Interview: Joonas Lappalainen "The season so far has been good in total"

By Tarek Ramchani

The newly formed Audi Sport TT Cup has reached the halfway mark. Three rounds done and three left with some great racing and different winners.

We had a chat with Joonas Lappalainen one of the stars of the series who is now fifth in the overall drivers' points standing.

This is part 1 of the interview in which Joonas Lappalainen reviews his season so far.

The Audi Sport TT Cup reached the halfway mark, tell us more about your season so far.

The season so far has been good in total; after the halfway mark I am standing 5th in the championship. At the second round in Norisring, I had a great qualifying in the challenging conditions (wet tires on an almost dry track), as I was P5 for Race 1 and P4 for Race 2.

I was able to clinch another 5th place in the wet in Race 1. I was a little disappointed, because in the race I was really fast in the end, but could not really challenge the guys in front, as I lost some time in the first few laps of the race.

Race 2 at Norisring was far from good. I started P4 and was able to climb up to P3 after a good start. Everything then changed on lap 2 of the race when I lost a bit of ground. I was overtaken into turn 1, as I got a bad exit from the final corner. Then, coming out of the chicane, I made a mistake with shifting and this lead to losing another place: in total I lost three positions on the lap.

The next lap we had the safety car come in after the accident in turn 1. The lights came out before the leading cars entered the chicane, and obviously everyone slowed down. This was the part when my downhill actually began: as Jordi Gene in front of me slowed down coming out of the chicane, I lifted the throttle a bit also, but the guy behind me did not, slamming straight into my rear and damaging my exhaust (under the safety car).

The exhaust pipe was damaged severely and it was fair to say no air could come out of it. This cost me a lot of vital straight line speed, and after the safety car came off, I was pretty much a slalom stick on the straights. I was able to finish P10 in the end and I certainly was not happy with the result as it could have been better without the incident, but it is a part of racing.

After Norisring I was classified P5 in the championship, standing with a few points of breathing space to the front and back of me, which I was satisfied about, even though the second race was not the type of one I was expecting.

Coming into Spielberg and Red Bull Ring after a four week break felt like a new beginning as the previous Norisring was such a special type of a circuit. Like the other tracks until now, Red Bull Ring was a new circuit for me. As I knew that many of the other drivers have more experience from the circuit, I was expecting a solid top 10 result from the weekend going into it.

The weekend turned out to be extremely challenging straightaway from the Free Practice. I was struggling with the setup and a technical problem early on and was only P12 in the extremely close field.

Going into the qualifying, I was confident of making a better result. Well, the same problem haunted me again and I could not get the maximum potential out of the new tires. I indeed did a better result in the qualifying, placing myself P11 for Race 1 and P13 for Race 2 on Sunday. After analyzing the qualifying, I have to say that I was kind of expecting this kind of a result at some point: it was my first qualifying session in 'normal' conditions and the series' first also.

After the slightly disappointing qualifying, I gathered myself and was ready to fight in Race 1. I got well off the line and dived inside which turned out to be a huge mistake as some used to the run-off of T1 to gain a small advantage. After the first lap I was down to P16. I then worked my way up to finish P14 (P13 of the permanent drivers) in the end which was a massive disappointment as I knew my vital judgmental mistakes cost me a lot of ground. But there was something positive in the race also: it was the first time I got the car work the way I wanted on the dry and despite of the bad position, my pace was fairly good throughout the race.

Race 2 on Sunday was a replay of the previous race weekends: other race on the dry, the other one on the wet. Just as we were making our way to the grid, the skies opened up completely. The downpour was so terrible and strong that we had to start behind the safety car. We did a total of three laps behind the safety car before the green flag was shown.

Unfortunately there was a massive crash going into T2 which caused a red flag to come out and the race was called off. I was able to avoid the crash. The results went according to your starting position and half points were awarded, so I finished P13 (P12 of the permanent drivers). After the two races at the Red Bull Ring, I am still standing 5th in the championship, but the gap forwards grew notably.

In total, I can say that the season this far has been filled with both ups and downs, but it is part of the whole process. I always knew that the season would not only be dancing on roses as the field in the series is very close and tight. I am confident that the second half will be good, but I am sure that it will not be any easier.

Photo credit: Audi Media