Rally News

Ogier inherits healthy lead after Lappi exit

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

The eight-time World Rally Championship title winner had been locked in a fight with Lappi throughout Friday, and faced a 5.3s deficit to the Finn heading into Saturday.

However, Lappi’s exit on the morning’s first test, stage 11, promoted Ogier to the lead, which he took into Saturday’s midday service.

Toyota’s Elfyn Evans trailed his part-time team-mate Ogier by 28.5s, with an inspired Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville only 8.7s behind the Welshman after scoring three stage wins.

World champion Kalle Rovanpera continued to battle with road-cleaning but ended the loop in fourth, 1m13.8s back, ahead of Hyundai’s Dani Sordo who was 1m56.9s off the overall lead.

Former WRC driver Gus Greensmith led the WRC2 class to sit sixth overall in his first WRC event of the 2023 season. The WRC2 field only completed one stage after stages 11-13 were cancelled for the second tier following Lappi’s crash.

M-Sport duo Pierre-Louis Loubet and Jourdan Serderidis rejoined the action along with Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta after crashing out on Friday.

The battle for the lead was turned on its head in stage 11. Lappi had found himself 2.3s down on Ogier at the first split before his run, which had been ragged at points, came to an abrupt end.

Lappi lost control of the i20 N and nosed into an embankment which fired the car rearwards into a telegraph, causing significant damage to the front and rear of the car. Lappi and co-driver Janne Ferm were unscathed but had to act quickly to extinguish a small fire that broke out at the front of the car, while the broken telegraph pole rested on the roof of the car.

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport

Officials quickly red-flagged the stage to allow for the wrecked i20 N to be cleared, while WRC2 runner Greensmith and co-driver Jonas Andersson, who were first to arrive at the scene of the accident, helped extinguish the fire.

The accident undid all of Lappi’s hard work in building up a lead during Friday, which the Finn labelled among the best drives of his WRC career.

With Lappi the last Rally1 car into the stage, Ogier emerged as the stage winner, as the Frenchman moved into a 26.6s lead over team-mate Evans.

“I always enjoy the fight and yesterday he was really having amazing speed, so it’s a big shame,” said Ogier.

Evans was second-fastest on the stage which helped the Welshman extend the gap over third-placed…

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