Esapekka Lappi has secured his first ever WRC win today at the Rally Finland 2017, beating veterans such as teammate Jari Matti Latvala who retired with a technical problem on Saturday and Sebastien Ogier who crashed out of the rally. Even more, this win for Lappi was in his home country. All three top Toyota drivers are Finnish, and they never disappointed.
Driving a Toyota Yaris WRC, Lappi broke a wheel at the penultimate speed test but managed to stay ahead till chequered flag. He had a 49s lead entering into today’s stages. M-Sport driver Elfyn Evans finished second in his Ford Fiesta and was involved in a battle with Teemu Suninen and Juho Hänninen. Eventually, Evans outpaced the challengers and claimed second place ahead of Hanninen who completed a double podium for Toyota by finishing third.
“Amazing, just amazing, I’m on my home soil so I should have been strong here and I was, but a victory was beyond my dreams. I have to really say a big thanks to the team because they built such a fast car in such a short time.” said 26 year old Lappi.
Suninen crashed his Fiesta on the penultimate speed test, but his lead advantage still allowed him to take fourth place ahead of Craig Breen in a Citroen C3 which suffered from handling issues. Thierry Neuville finished sixth in his Hyundai i20 WRC, enough to equal Ogier’s points in the championship standings.
Ott Tanak finished seventh in his Fiesta, leading Kris Meeke’s Citroen, Dani Sordo’s Hyundai and Mads Ostberg’s Fiesta.
Ogier crashed out during testing ahead of the rally, his car suffered damage that could not be repaired on location. He crashed again on Friday upon which his co-driver Ingrassia suffered a mild concussion, that effectively removed them out of the rally. Tanak set the pace on the first test, while Toyota held a 1-2 advantage from SS1-SS4. Finnish drivers Latvala and Lappi continued to outpace their rivals, and evidently showing the strength of the Yaris on gravel. SS5 to 7 was still a Toyota zone.
On Friday afternoon, Lappi outpaced his teammate Latvala, the day ended with a 1-2 from Toyota. On Saturday however, Latvala headed a 1-2-3 for Toyota after regaining his pace. But the joy was short lived as Latvala was forced to retire on Saturday afternoon when his ECU failed. Nonetheless, Toyota came to Finland and showed their true form.
Photos: McKlein/LAT, Francois Flamand, @World