He is the new 2016 Audi Sport TT Cup titleholder. Joonas Lappalainen stood on the podium 11 times in 14 races, and celebrated four wins. The 18-year-old racing driver from Helsinki was the dominant driver in the second season of the Audi one-make cup.
Joonas Lappalainen, the youngest driver on the grid and an overall fourth in 2015. The 2016 Audi Sport TT Cup title triumph followed just one year later. What was the key to success?
When I started in the debut year of the Audi Sport TT Cup in 2015, everything was obviously very new for me. In the first half of the season, I had to get used to it all and get a feel for the car and the racetracks. I steadily got better, and four podium spots as well as two victories set me up well for the 2016 season. This season the hard work paid off: In 14 races I stood on the podium 11 times. I was the most consistent driver – in the end that was clearly the key to my success.
You were also one of only three drivers to finish every race. Could it be said that you are tactically superior to your competition?
I have been cleverer in some situations. You can’t just go flat out all the way to victory, but rather you must be able to calculate. Take, for example, the first race in the second visit to the Nürburgring: Until the final laps Dennis Marschall and Sheldon van der Linde fought each other for victory. In the end, a wheel-to-wheel duel cost them a podium spot. I profited from this and won the race. Sometimes you just have to err on the side of caution and make the right decisions to become champion. Ultimately, it’s the overall tally of points that counts.
Before the season showdown at Hockenheim, the title had not yet been decided. Yet you stayed cool. How did you approach the final weekend at the Hockenheimring?
Dennis Marschall’s double victory in Budapest made the season finale exciting once more. But I knew that I had the opportunity get a nice result in qualifying. In 2015, I started on the front row twice and that gave me confidence. When I won the first race and thus only had to reach the finishing line on Sunday to win the title, I was sure: the crown was not going to be taken from me.
Are there still things that you want to improve on?
Of course. There will always be things that you can do better. I didn’t always have the pace that I would have hoped for. On the car setup, we didn’t take any risks and so in some instances I was a few tenths slower than the competition. I would like to have even better demonstrated my potential speed.
What are your plans for 2017 and your next steps in motorsport?
It’s still difficult to say at the moment. First I want to enjoy my triumph in the 2016 Audi Sport TT Cup. My wish would be to gain a foothold in Audi Sport customer racing. Whether in the new RS 3 LMS or Audi R8 LMS, I would like to be given the chance to complete the tests for both cars.