Rally Finland: Maiden WRC victory for Esapekka Lappi
Esapekka Lappi clinches his maiden WRC victory in his only fourth start in the World Rally Car this weekend at the 67th Rally Finland, the ninth round of the 2017 World Rally Championship. The 26-year-old driver of the #12 Toyota Yaris WRC brought the second win of the season for Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT instead of his teammate Jari-Matti Latvala, who retired from the lead at the famous Ouninpohja stage (SS19) on Saturday.
Following Latvala’s retirement, Lappi inherited a lead of 54.1 seconds ahead of another teammate Juho Hänninen. Until the end of the rally on Sunday afternoon, Lappi defended a lead to win with 36 seconds of advantage.
Behind Lappi’s back, three drivers were fighting for the second place. At the end, Elfyn Evans (Ford) was the fastest, beating Juho Hanninen for just three tenths of a second after 315 competitive kilometers over 25 stages. It’s the fourth WRC podium in a career for Evans and the first ever podium for Hanninen.
Teemu Suninen (Ford) was keeping the second place ahead of Hanninen and Evans on Saturday afternoon and stayed there during the Sunday morning. Unfortunately for him, a big mistake on the penultimate stage (SS 24) cost him a lot and he dropped to P4.
For the championship leader Sebastien Ogier this was the event to forget. He retired early, crashing out on the Special stage 4 on Friday. Suspension damage on his #1 Ford Fiesta caused a mistake in one turn and Ogier hit a tree. The car was ready to re-enter the rally on Saturday but Ogier’s navigator Julien Ingrassia was feeling unwell so they pulled off.
After nine events, Ogier remains on the top of the championship standings with 160 points. Following Ogier’s retirement, his main rival Thierry Neuville avoided any risk wishing to pick some points in Finland. He finished sixth in the rally and third in the Power Stage to add eleven points on his account. He’s now a new championship leader, tied in the points with Ogier, but with three wins against Ogier’s two wins.
The next WRC event is the 35th ADAC Rallye Deutschland on August 18-20.