Esapekka Lappi beats Tanak to take early lead at Rally Sardinia

Esapekka Lappi beats Tanak to take early lead at Rally Sardinia

Esapekka Lappi has an overnight lead over Ott Tanak of M-Sport by 0.2 seconds in the Rally Sardinia following Thursday’s first stage.

Hyundai driver Esapekka Lappi won the super special stage on Thursday night to take the early lead in the World Rally Championship sixth round in Sardinia.

The Finn finished the 3.23km test, which was conducted in the host city of Olbia on a mixture of asphalt and gravel surfaces, in a time that was 0.2s quicker than Ott Tanak of M-Sport.

“This is fun. You have enough space, it’s wide enough, you can play with the car,” said Lappi. “On the gravel you just go fully sideways and keep the foot on the throttle because it’s so slippery, that’s the only way to do it.”

Tanak put forth a dedicated performance throughout the test to finish barely short of the Finn’s previous record. The 2019 world champion’s Ford Puma has new suspension parts, which, in his opinion, have made the car better.

“We did a good job in between, it was necessary after Portugal,” said Tanak. “I wouldn’t say we should be too confident at the moment but for sure we are better than in Portugal.”

Thierry Neuville of Hyundai finished third, just 0.5 seconds behind teammate Lappi, and Takamoto Katsuta was the fastest of the Toyota quad, four tenths slower than Neuville.

Kalle Rovanpera who is the reigning world champion and currently leading in the championship standings, was fifth fastest, a tenth faster than teammate and four-time Sardinia winner Sebastien Ogier. Rovanpera will begin Friday’s stage first on the road.

The remaining three cars that rounded out the Rally1 field were Hyundai’s Dani Sordo, Toyota’s Elfyn Evans, and Pierre-Louis Loubet’s sister M-Sport car.

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Oliver Solberg took the top spot on the WRC2 table after posting a time that was 0.2 seconds better than fellow Skoda driver Miko Marczyk.

On Friday, teams will face six challenging gravel stages, including the brand-new, extended 49.9km Monte Lerno test. After this week’s reconnaissance, drivers compared the stages to those in the Safari Rally Kenya and are anticipating a challenging day.

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