High-fliers face-off in Fafe
For many the highlight of next week’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal (17 - 20 May) is the final leg stomach-churning leap over the massive Fafe jump – one of the WRC’s iconic locations.
Huge crowds will throng the roadside to watch the championship’s high-fliers soar skywards through a double pass of the 11.18km speed test – and this year’s encounter should bring together the two principal pilots of the WRC’s big-air exponents.
On one side is Toyota Gazoo Racing’s award-winning Esapekka Lappi. WRC TV’s coverage of Lappi’s leap in Fafe last year was named the best action moment of the motorsport season at the FIA’s prize giving ceremony.
The look on Lappi’s face and the relieved laughter from co-driver Janne Ferm said it all after their Toyota Yaris’ 33-metre, 120kph jump, which Lappi landed on one wheel. And all that on their World Rally Car debut!
The Finn’s flight also won the OneBet Jump of the Year award at the WRC Gala in Sydney.
Opposing him is Mads Østberg, who flew his Citroën C3 to a second consecutive Colin’s Crest Award at February’s Rally Sweden.
Mad Mads’ 42-metre jump over the crest close to the end of the Vargåsen stage matched his 2017 distance to retain the award, presented in honour of 1995 world champion Colin McRae to the driver who flies furthest.
Lappi views the rally as the start of a new chapter in his career. “Portugal is where I started to compete in a World Rally Car last year so I think everything should be a little bit easier from this point onwards.
“In the first part of the season there were ups and downs, but I was pretty surprised with how good the speed was on some events. There were many positives and we just need to try to learn from the negative moments and be better in the second half of the year,” he said.
Norway’s Østberg returns to the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi squad for the first time since Sweden and admits he might need time to shake off the rust.
“Portugal is obviously a bit special for me, as it’s the only one I’ve won in the WRC, but at the time it was held in the Algarve. This year my approach will perhaps be slightly more cautious, so I can get my bearings back and make it to the end without problems,” he said.
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