Esapekka Lappi has won the latest round of the World Rally Championship, the Rally of Finland, in his Toyota Yaris WRC, in an event dominated by Toyota.
Lappi in only his fourth drive in a full WRC car is well known to New Zealand rally fans, having won the Rally of Whangarei, the local round of the Asia Pacific Championship in 2013.
“What a rally. I could never have imagined that we could get a result like this, so it’s a very big surprise,” said Lappi. “I have to say a big thank you to the team because they have built such a great car in a very short period.”
The 26-year-old Finn swapped the lead with team-mate Jari Matti Latvala, until the latter’s car was halted by an electronic problem.
He was then able to control his advantage on the final leg of the event and take his maiden victory in a world championship event.
Juho Hanninen in the third factory backed Yaris WRC finished third after a thrilling battle for the other podium places finishing just three tenths of a second behind Welshman Elfyn Evans. Hänninen was the initial test driver for the Yaris WRC when Toyota decided to return to the World Rally Championship. It was his best result at this level.
Latvala restarted the last day and claimed some power stage points to keep his hopes of success in the World Driver’s Championship alive.
1 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2h29m26.9s
2 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +36s
3 Juho Hänninen/Kaj Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +36.3s
4 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1m01.5s
5 Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +1m22.6s
6 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1m33.1s
7 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1m53.6s
8 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) +3m12.6s
9 Dani Sordo/Marc Martí (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +4m11.5s
10 Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4m21.2s
21 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +20m15.8s
World Rally Championship for drivers after round nine:
1 Thierry Neuville 160
2 Sebastien Ogier 160
3 Ott Tänak 119
4 Jari-Matti Latvala 114
5 Dani Sordo 84
6 Elfyn Evans 79
7 Craig Breen 53
8 Hayden Paddon 51
9 Juho Hänninen 46
10 Esapekka Lappi 45
World Rally Championship for manufacturers after round nine:
1 M-Sport World Rally Team 285
2 Hyundai Motorsport 251
3 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT 193
4 Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 135