Sunday | 28 Feb 2021

WRC2: Lappi lands victory on return

Esapekka Lappi made a dream return to the World Rally Championship by claiming victory in WRC2 on Sunday at Arctic Rally Finland Powered by CapitalBox.

The Finn, who drove for M-Sport Ford’s top-flight squad in 2020, set the pace from the get-go and opened up an early advantage over Rallye Monte-Carlo winner Andreas Mikkelsen. 

Lappi continued to assert dominance across Saturday’s stages, with a spin in the darkness of Siikäkama 2 being the only hiccup of his rally. 

After claiming eight of out 10 stage wins in a Movisport-prepared Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, a safe approach to Sunday’s closing stages saw the home hero take victory by 47.7sec from Mikkelsen. 

A spin was the only tarnish in an otherwise perfect weekend for Esapekka Lappi

“It's really cool they made this event happen in such a short time. The Volkswagen has really impressed me and I didn't need to make any big set-up changes at all,” said the winner. 

Mikkelsen was disappointed to miss out on a maximum points haul and at times felt there was no more speed to come from his Skoda Fabia Rally2. Nevertheless, a stage win plus consistent pace were positives to take from the winter event. 

Nikolay Gryazin also showed glimpses of rapid pace in his Movisport Polo. The youngster’s result was marred by an off into a snowbank on Saturday which cost around 40sec, but he recovered to finish 42.6sec behind Mikkelsen in third.

Andreas Mikkelsen had to settle for second, but held onto his lead in the overall standings

Norwegian star Eyvind Brynildsen only found out he was doing the rally last week after visa issues prevented Marco Bulacia from travelling. Toksport’s super-sub soon settled into his Fabia machine and eventually finished 1min 14.6sec back from Gryazin. 

Ole Christian Veiby ended 9.3sec further down after a throttle issue plagued his Hyundai i20 R5 on Friday, with M-Sport Ford Fiesta man Martin Prokop 4min 5.9sec behind the Norwegian in sixth.

American Sean Johnston made a disastrous start after getting stuck in a snowbank on Friday evening and eventually finished seventh, whilst Georg Linnamäe suffered a similar fate the following day and was 7min 24.3sec down on the Citroën man at the end. 

M-Sport Ford hotshot Adrien Fourmaux was also caught out by the tricky stages and went off the road on the Mustalampi speed test on Saturday. The Frenchman eventually completed the rally 37min 21.2sec back from the leaders in ninth.  

Adrien Fourmaux had a weekend he would rather forget

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