Esapekka Lappi has become a World Rally Championship winner in only his fourth WRC event after keeping his cool to win his home Rally Finland in extraordinary circumstances.

The 2016 WRC2 champion was only given his first WRC outing with Toyota in Portugal, but came into his fourth event having already shown strong promise by finishing just off the podium in his second outing in Italy.

However, it is on home soil the 26 year-old has excelled, engaging in a fierce tussle with team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala during the first half of the rally to pull clear of the chasing pack. When Latvala retired with technical issues during the closing stages of Leg 3, Lappi was left with just four stages to bring the Yaris home unscathed for a spectacular win.

A remarkable result for Toyota as well to score its second win of the season, Lappi enjoyed a quieter end to the rally than his rivals just behind as both Teemu Suninen and Juho Hanninen - second and third respectively overnight - came under pressure from a charging Elfyn Evans in the final stages.

The Welshman had moved himself onto the cusp of the podium fight with a stunning run of stages on Leg 3 and carried that momentum through into the final day, passing both to secure a second podium of the year for DMACK Ford.

With Suninen - only his fifth WRC event as well - slipping from second to fourth, Hanninen took his maiden podium result for Toyota, though will be disappointed to have been largely out-classed by Lappi from start-to-finish.

Behind Suninen, Craig Breen brought his Citroen home in fifth after a solid and consistently strong performance that had him the podium fight during times and would see him finish ahead of more fancied runners.

Those included Thierry Neuville, who couldn't take full advantage of championship leader Sebastien Ogier's early exit from the event on the way to a quiet sixth. Nevertheless, that coupled to a point for finishing third on the Power Stage means the Hyundai driver is level on points with the Frenchman, and ahead on account of his greater number of wins.

Ott Tanak would have been a podium contender but for time lost early on with damage, the Estonian recovering to seventh ahead of Kris Meeke, who marked his WRC return with a cautious - if not faultless - run to eighth. Dani Sordo and Mads Ostberg completed the top ten.



Loading Comments...