Esapekka Lappi took his debut victory in the World Rally Championship on the fast stages of Rally Finland after an intense battle with Toyota team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.
After a cautious start to the rally, Lappi won 8 stages on the opening day to take the lead from Latvala. He then struggled to match the pace of his countryman on day two and dropped behind, only to regain the lead on the very next stage when an ECU failure brought this exciting battle to an end. Lappi then backed off slightly on the final day to minimise the risks and was briefly scared by a problem in the closing kilometers, but kept it together to win by over half a minute. To his credit, Latvala restarted the final day under Rally-2 and gained two bonus championship points in the Power Stage.
Behind Lappi, there was a tight three way battle for the podium places. Teemu Suninen’s Ford held second until the penultimate stage, when a spin dropped him to fourth overall. Juho Hanninen in the third Toyota Yaris took over his position but couldn’t hold a charging Elfyn Evans behind him, being pipped by just 0.3 of a second. The top four all achieved or matched their best WRC finish ever, a brilliant result for all involved.
Craig Breen overcame set-up and pacenote problems to take fifth for the fifth time this season. Thierry Neuville was next up; sixth a disappointing result for the Hyundai driver but it meant that he jumped to the top of the drivers’ standings. His championship rival, Sebastien Ogier, suffered power problems and then crashed out, injuring his co-driver to the point where the crew couldn’t restart the following day. Ott Tanak won the power stage after a puncture dropped him from the lead on the opening day. He finished seventh ahead of Kris Meeke, another driver to suffer from a puncture, Dani Sordo and Mads Ostberg, the latter recovering after crashing into a ditch on the second day.
In WRC-2 another Finn, Jari Huttunen, claimed victory by two and a half minutes in his Skoda ahead of Quentin Gilbert, with Tom Cave finishing third. In WRC-3/Junior WRC, Nicolas Ciamin took class honours by nearly three and a half minutes.
Results – Neste Rally Finland 2017
|1||E. Lappi||J. Ferm||Toyota Yaris WRC||2:29:26.9|
|2||E. Evans||D. Barritt||Ford Fiesta WRC ‘17||+36.0|
|3||J. Hanninen||K. Lindstrom||Toyota Yaris WRC||+36.3|
|4||T. Suninen||M. Markkula||Ford Fiesta WRC ‘17||+1:01.5|
|5||C. Breen||S. Martin||Citroen C3 WRC||+1:22.6|
|6||T. Neuville||N. Gilsoul||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+1:33.1|
|7||O. Tanak||M. Jarveoja||Ford Fiesta WRC ‘17||+1:53.6|
|8||K. Meeke||P. Nagle||Citroen C3 WRC||+3:12.6|
|9||D. Sordo||M. Marti||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+4:11.5|
|10||M. Ostberg||T. Eriksen||Ford Fiesta WRC ‘17||+4:21.2|