Esapekka Lappi secures much awaited race victory at Rally Sweden

Esapekka Lappi secures much awaited race victory at Rally Sweden

Esapekka Lappi secured an eagerly anticipated first World Rally Championship triumph since 2017 with a commanding victory in Rally Sweden.

Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm put an end to their six and a half year winless streak in style in Rally Sweden, winning by a comfortable half a minute as Hyundai marked its second consecutive triumph at the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Lappi, driving on part-time basis alongside co-driver Janne Ferm, made it through eighteen challenging snow stages and secured his second career race win with a margin of 29.6 seconds over Toyota’s Elfyn Evans.

Lappi held a lead of more than a minute on Saturday morning and believed he would win the race after Takamoto Katsuta suffered a retirement. His advantage remained well over a minute entering the last three stages on Sunday, which included a six-mile powerstage and two loops through the 16-mile Västervik.

The additional Sunday points available under the WRC’s new scoring structure were irrelevant to Lappi as he was content to drive with extreme caution and claim the elusive second WRC win.

The first stage on Sunday saw Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin swiftly overcome Adrien Fourmaux and Alex Coria for second place, dropping M-Sport Ford’s duo to third. Despite the setback, the Frenchmen remained unfazed and managed to secure their first-ever WRC podium.

Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe finished in fourth place and took the lead in the WRC standings as all three manufacturers were represented on the podium. Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT and Toyota Gazoo Racing are tied for the Manufacturers’ Championship.

Evans lost the lead by 0.039 seconds after hitting a snowbank in the third-to-last corner of the Wolf Power Stage giving his teammate Kalle Rovanperä an extra point.

Evans earned the seven bonus points from the Super Sunday point allocation, which offers points to the top seven fastest drivers over the final day’s stages.

Evans’s potential title challenger Thierry Neuville wound up in fourth place overall, unable to catch up to the leading cars and having a sizable advantage. Nonetheless, he still had a lot to gain from the new Sunday points.

Before making a stronger run on the second pass, Neuville had trouble handling the car in Sunday’s opening stage, losing almost twenty seconds to Rovanperä. His Hyundai’s rear end was severed on a hard landing following a push through the powerstage, and he finished just 0.2 seconds behind Rovanperä, who was third fastest.

Neuville maintained the lead in the championship by finishing the Sunday stages third fastest overall, earning 18 points for the weekend and only dropping six to Evans.

Meanwhile, Kalle Rovanperä and Ott Tänak had retired on Friday, therefore their only goal was to secure Sunday points. Rovanperä proved unstoppable, taking first place in both the powerstage and the opening to earn 11 points overall.

Tänak only managed to secure six points after finishing fourth on the powerstage while remaining in the same position in the Sunday classification. Katsuta was in an identical situation on Sunday when he took an unfortunate spin on the opening stage of the day and as a result, he was ranked fifth on Sunday.

In the WRC2, home hero Oliver Solberg and Elliot Edmondson in their Skoda Fabia run by Toksport prevailed over Sami Pajari and Enni Mälkönen in their Toyota Yaris Rally2.

Pajari fitted used tires for the Saturday opener, expanding his lead over Linnamäe—who was not impressed with his drive—to 4.0 seconds after being only 0.8 seconds ahead at the start of the day. As the race was nearing its conclusion, he leveraged his fresher rubber to his advantage and finish 2.5 seconds ahead.

The pair of GR Yaris Rally2s driven by Roope Korhonen and Mikko Heikkilä along with the privateer Rally1 version piloted by Lorenzo Bertelli rounded out the top 10.

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