Esapekka Lappi completed a hat-trick of WRC 2 victories at Dayinsure Wales Rally GB on Sunday afternoon to send the destiny of the title into next month’s final round in Australia.
The Finn closed on the championship lead after a 29.1sec win over Skoda Motorsport team-mate Pontus Tidemand amid the fog and mud of the Welsh forests. It was his third consecutive success after triumphing in Finland and Germany.
His hopes were left clinging by a thread after swiping a tree in Friday’s opening speed tests and damaging the rear of his Fabia R5. The damage proved cosmetic only and he quickly moved into a lead that he was never to lose.
“I have to thank my team. We did an absolutely perfect job on my first time in Wales to take the victory. The title fight is still alive. After the accident I thought it wasn’t going to be our weekend, I wasn’t expecting to win,” he said.
Victory or second place on the dirt roads at Kennards Hire Rally Australia (17 - 20 November) will be sufficient for him to clinch the championship.
His hopes were boosted by Tidemand, who relegated title rival Teemu Suninen to third in the final speed test. Tidemand closed on the Finn throughout yesterday’s second leg and today, the pair entering the final 7.93km stage split by 3.1sec.
Tidemand emerged 1.1sec to the good, to leave Suninen, driving a privately-entered Fabia R5, devastated. “That’s not the result we wanted to have. It’s good to have such a fight but I have no words,” he said.
Third moved Suninen into the championship lead. He is level on points with Elfyn Evans but is ahead by virtue of the tie break. Both drivers have completed their scoring rounds to leave Lappi with his destiny in his own hands.
Jan Kopecký finished fourth, nearly two minutes adrift of Suninen, with Marius Aasen and Ole Christian Veiby completing the top six. A damaged radiator forced WRC 2 debutant Osian Pryce to retire from sixth midway through the final leg.