Lappi, competing for the first time since departing M-Sport Ford’s top-flight squad in 2020, set the pace from the get-go in his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
The Finn went fastest by 8sec on the opening Sarriojärvi speed test before extending his lead when the stage was repeated under darkness. He arrived back to service in Rovaniemi with a 13.6sec advantage in WRC3.
“We’re not dominating the rally, but we are happy with how the first day has gone. There’s still a long way to go so I am trying to play it smart, but I’m really pleased to be back in a rally car,” he said.
Lappi’s Movisport team-mate Nikolay Gryazin was second in his similar car. However, he faces pressure from Monte-Carlo winner Andreas Mikkelsen who ended the day just 2.7sec further back.
Last-minute Toksport call-up Eyvind Brynildsen enjoyed his day in a Skoda Fabia Rally2 and was 25.9sec behind team-mate Mikkelsen in fourth. The Norwegian has a slender 4.1sec buffer to fifth-placed Adrien Fourmaux, who is competing on his third ever winter rally in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally2.
Hyundai i20 man Ole Christian Veiby was 1min 35.8sec off the leading pace in sixth. Meanwhile, Martin Prokop and Georg Linnamäe tussled for seventh and just 3.8sec separated the pair as they rounded out the opening leg.
Series favourite Jari Huttunen was dealt a painful blow when technical issues forced his i20’s retirement on SS1, whilst Sean Johnston dropped over seven minutes after getting stuck in a snowbank during the final stage.
• Full coverage from Arctic Rally Finland Powered by CapitalBox is available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.