Esapekka Lappi secured his first podium finish of the 2018 World Rally Championship on Sunday with a well-earned third place on Rally Italia Sardegna. His Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Ott Tänak also netted championship points in spite of damaging setbacks during the event.
Lappi said: “This is a really important result, both for my confidence but also for the team. I think we deserved a podium. We had opportunities to do it earlier in the season but I made some mistakes. Both Portugal and Sardinia have been quite clean rallies for me with a consistent performance, so I hope I can take this forward to the next event, in Finland.”
Friday’s first full day of action showed the team in strong contention, in spite of changeable weather which brought unexpected rain. After eight stages, Latvala held third place overall and claimed the fastest time on the last stage of the day. Lappi was cautious following a morning puncture, but steadily moved up the leaderboard in the afternoon to shadow Latvala in fourth. Tänak was fastest on the third stage, maintaining his record of posting a top time in every event he has contested in the Toyota Yaris WRC. His progress was halted, however, after a heavy landing damaged his car’s cooling system.
On Saturday Latvala and Lappi were in a close battle for third, with Jari-Matti having the advantage after the day’s final stage. His hopes were dashed after the car was unable to make it back to the service park due to an alternator issue. Restarting under Rally 2 rules, Tänak had a 10-minute time penalty, but made rapid progress back up the timesheet to ninth by the end of the day.
Sunday’s conclusion saw Lappi bring his car safely home in third, while Latvala and Tänak were also in the points in spite of their penalties, finishing seventh and ninth respectively. The result moves Lappi up to fourth in the driver’s championship as the WRC reaches its summer break.
The next event, the eighth round of the 2018 season, will be Rally Finland, running from 26 to 29 July. This is the fastest rally on the calendar, run over smooth gravel roads and featuring many jumps. It is the home event for the Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team, who have their base close to the service park in Jyväsklä. Finnish driver Lappi scored a home victory on the event in 2017.
Provisional final result, Rally Italia Sardegna
1 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 3h29m18.7s
2 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +0.7s
3 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1m56.3s
4 Hayden Paddon/Seb Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2m55.2s
5 Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroen C3 WRC) +3m10.9s
6 Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +4m31.7s
7 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +11m22.1s
8 Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +13m14.6s
9 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +13m18.2s
10 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +15m30.4s