Estonia WRC: M-Sport’s Esapekka Lappi takes early lead

The 2020 FIA World Rally Championship has officially restarted as Rally Estonia got underway on Friday evening in front of thousands of socially-distanced fans on the short 1.28-km spectator stage at Tartu vald.

Seven-time champion and current points leader Sebastien Ogier got the ball rolling with what appeared to be a rather tentative run through the stage in his Toyota Yaris WRC, stopping the clocks with a time of 1m 17.0s on the narrow, twisting gravel. Britain’s Elfyn Evans, who led the drivers’ standings briefly back in March after taking victory in Sweden, guided the second Toyota through with even greater circumspection, his time more than half a second off the Frenchman’s run.

Thierry Neuville then showed why the softly-softly approach might well have been prudent. This year’s Monte Carlo Rally winner fired his Hyundai I20 Coupe WRC wide on the second corner of the rally and spent most of his time looking through the side windows as he slithered to the finish 1.5 seconds adrift of Ogier’s target time.

Several other front-runners found that Tartu vald presented a serious challenge, with the hefty straw bales claiming several expensive chunks of aerodynamic equipment as the evening progressed. Among those who sent the hay flying was the reigning world champion, Estonia’s own Ott Tanak, who still drew the biggest cheers of the night as he ended up just 0.1s off the lead.

However, as the stage bedded in, the man who took fullest advantage was M-Sport’s Esapekka Lappi, the popular Finn shading Ogier’s time in the Fiesta WRC by hundredths of a second. After his car was destroyed by fire at the last event in Mexico, and in a difficult financial climate for his team, Lappi was equally surprised and delighted to have set the pace.

“It didn’t feel that good to be honest,” he said. “Well this is not really what the stages will be tomorrow but we had a good shakedown, a good opening stage… looking forward!”

With Lappi and Ogier heading Tanak at the top of the timesheet, Irishman Craig Breen, a former winner of Rally Estonia, threw down his marker to hold fourth overnight in one of his outings in the works Hyundai squad, sitting 0.2s ahead of Evans.

In the WRC2 category, current points leader Mads Ostberg stamped his authority on the other junior runners, setting sixth fastest time overall at the wheel of his Citroen C3 R5.

“The nerves are quite big,” the Norwegian said. “It’s been a long wait to feel the importance of a WRC event again.  To be honest I quite enjoy that – it’s nice to be a bit shaky again!”

Ostberg’s closest challenger was Swedish driver Pontus Tidemand, winner of the previous round in Mexico, who sat 0.2s behind in ninth overall in his Skoda R5.

Back in March, Tidemand was uncertain of continuing on the globe-trotting championship trail due to an absence of funds but the post-Covid calendar has greatly reduced travel budgets and his sponsor-less presence has guaranteed a strong battle with Ostberg in the days ahead.

The rally restarts on Saturday morning with the 21km Prangli stage starting at 07:40, opening a busy 11-stage itinerary for the day.

Cla Driver/Codriver Car Class Time Gap
1 Esapekka Lappi
Janne Ferm
Ford Fiesta WRC RC1 1’17.000  
2 Sébastien Ogier
Julien Ingrassia
Toyota Yaris WRC RC1 1’17.000 0.000
3 Ott Tanak
Martin Jarveoja
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC RC1 1’17.100 0.100
4 Craig Breen
Paul Nagle
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC RC1 1’17.400 0.400
5 Elfyn Evans
Scott Martin
Toyota Yaris WRC RC1 1’17.600 0.600
6 Mads Ostberg
Torstein Eriksen
Citroën C3 R5 RC2 1’18.200 1.200
7 Takamoto Katsuta
Daniel Barritt
Toyota Yaris WRC RC1 1’18.400 1.400
8 Pontus Tidemand
Patrik Barth
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo RC2 1’18.400 1.400
9 Kalle Rovanperä
Jonne Halttunen
Toyota Yaris WRC RC1 1’18.400 1.400
10 Teemu Suninen
Jarmo Lehtinen
Ford Fiesta WRC RC1 1’18.500 1.500
11 Thierry Neuville
Nicolas Gilsoul
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC RC1 1’18.500 1.500
12 Jari Huttunen
Mikko Lukka
Hyundai i20 R5 RC2 1’18.500 1.500
13 Oliver Solberg
Aaron Johnston
Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 RC2 1’18.600 1.600
14 Nikolay Gryazin
Konstantin Aleksandrov
Hyundai i20 R5 RC2 1’18.700 1.700
15 Gus Greensmith
Elliott Edmondson
Ford Fiesta WRC RC1 1’18.700 1.700
16 Ole Christian Veiby
Jonas Andersson
Hyundai i20 R5 RC2 1’18.900 1.900
17 Eerik Pietarinen
Antti Linnaketo
Škoda Fabia R5 RC2 1’19.000 2.000
18 Grégoire Munster
Louis Louka
Hyundai i20 R5 RC2 1’19.100 2.100
19 Eyvind Brynildsen
Ilka Minor
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo RC2 1’19.200 2.200
20 Kajetan Kajetanowicz
Maciek Szczepaniak
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo RC2 1’19.400 2.400
21 Egon Kaur
Silver Simm
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo RC2 1’19.600 2.600
22 Georg Linnamäe
Volodymyr Korsia
Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 RC2 1’19.600 2.600
23 Adrien Fourmaux
Renaud Jamoul
Ford Fiesta Rally2 RC2 1’19.700 2.700
24 Yohan Rossel
Benoit Fulcrand
Citroën C3 R5 RC2 1’19.900 2.900
25 Rainer Aus
Simo Koskinen
Škoda Fabia R5 RC2 1’20.200 3.200
26 Sean Johnston
Alexander Kihurani
Citroën C3 R5 RC2 1’20.300 3.300
27 Pierre-Louis Loubet
Vincent Landais
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC RC1 1’20.400 3.400
28 Karl Kruuda
Dale Moscatt
Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 RC2 1’20.600 3.600
29 Jan Solans
Mauro Barreiro
Ford Fiesta Rally2 RC2 1’20.700 3.700
30 Raul Jeets
Andrus Toom
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo RC2 1’20.900 3.900
31 Georg Gross
Raigo Molder
Ford Fiesta WRC RC1 1’20.900 3.900
32 Marco Bulacia
Marcelo Der Ohannesian
Citroën C3 R5 RC2 1’21.100 4.100
33 Nicolas Ciamin
Yannick Roche
Citroën C3 R5 RC2 1’21.100 4.100
34 Emilio Fernández
Ruben Garcia
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo RC2 1’21.900 4.900
35 Roland Poom
Erik Lepikson
Ford Fiesta Rally2 RC2 1’22.000 5.000
36 Kimmo Kurkela
Reeta Hämäläinen
Ford Fiesta WRC RC1 1’22.000 5.000
37 Gustav Kruuda
Ken Järveoja
Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 RC2 1’22.600 5.600
38 Alexander Rzhevkin
Yaroslav Fedorov
Škoda Fabia R5 RC2 1’23.000 6.000
39 Priit Koik
Alari-Uku Heldna
Ford Fiesta R5 RC2 1’24.100 7.100
40 Sami Pajari
Marko Salminen
Ford Fiesta Rally4 RC4 1’24.300 7.300
41 Jaroslaw Koltun
Ireneusz Pleskot
Ford Fiesta Rally2 RC2 1’25.000 8.000
42 Rakan Al-Rashed
Hugo Magalhaes
Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 RC2 1’25.100 8.100
43 Tom Kristensson
Joakim Sjöberg
Ford Fiesta Rally4 RC4 1’25.300 8.300
44 Radik Shaymiev
Alexey Arnautov
Ford Fiesta Rally2 RC2 1’26.400 9.400
45 Mārtiņš Sesks
Renars Francis
Ford Fiesta Rally4 RC4 1’26.500 9.500
46 Raul Badiu
Gabriel Lazar
Ford Fiesta Rally4 RC4 1’26.900 9.900
47 Fabrizio Zaldivar
Fernando Mussano
Ford Fiesta Rally4 RC4 1’26.900 9.900
48 Ruairi Bell
Matt Edwards
Ford Fiesta Rally4 RC4 1’26.900 9.900
49 Ken Torn
Kauri Pannas
Ford Fiesta Rally4 RC4 1’27.200 10.200
50 Robert Virves
Sander Pruul
Ford Fiesta Rally4 RC4 1’27.800 10.800
51 Enrico Oldrati
Elia De
Ford Fiesta Rally4 RC4 1’27.900 10.900
52 Marco Pollara
Maurizio Messina
Ford Fiesta Rally4 RC4 1’28.100 11.100
53 Kaspar Kasari
Jakko Viilo
Ford Fiesta Rally4 RC4 1’28.500 11.500
54 Pontus Lönnström
Stefan Gustavsson
Ford Fiesta Rally4 RC4 1’29.000 12.000
55 Vladas Jurkevičius
Aisvydas Paliukenas
Ford Fiesta Rally4 RC4 1’29.400 12.400
56 Fabio Andolfi
Stefano Savoia
Ford Fiesta Rally4 RC4 1’29.700 12.700
57 Justas Simaška
Titas Simaška
Ford Fiesta Rally4 RC4 1’31.000 14.000
58 Gregor Jeets
Kuldar Sikk
Ford Fiesta Rally4 RC4 1’32.300 15.300
59 Mika Karppanen
Anne Heinonen
Citroën DS3 R5 RC2 1’32.800 15.800
View full results

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