Lappi claims title
with Australia win
Esapekka Lappi clinched the 2016 WRC 2 drivers' title after a cool-headed victory on the championship's final round at Kennards Hire Rally Australia.
The Finn, and his co-driver Janne Ferme, led from beginning to end, bringing their Skoda Fabia R5 to the finish 4m35s ahead of Nicolas Fuchs, also in Skoda. Peugeot 208 driver Hubert Ptaszek was third, two minutes further back.
The win was Lappi's fourth in a row in WRC 2, and a maximum haul of 25 points moved him 10 points ahead of title rivals Teemu Suninen and Elfyn Evans.
It was a stylish recovery for the 25-year-old after a run of poor results in the first half of the season almost derailed his title ambitions.
"I feel relieved and really, really happy," said Lappi, who had to win or finish second here to secure the crown.
"Everyone in our team deserves the title, they have worked hard with the Fabia R5 for the past three years and they gave me the best car.
"Okay, we had some bad luck this year, but we ended with four wins in a row. This wasn't an easy event - I was driving against myself and had to motivate myself in a different way. There were some rough sections today, but otherwise we kept up the speed to stay concentrated and have a good feeling."
Lappi is widely expected to step up to the world rally car category next year, but he remained tight-lipped about his future plans. "We will be back for sure - but I cannot tell you more," he said.
Sunday brought no changes to the WRC 2 classifications in Australia as the well-spaced field focused on consolidating their positions.
The Citroën DS 3 of Jourdain Serderidis's stuck in second gear through Bucca16 (SS20), and Fuchs had a dusty run through the first pass of Wedding Bells (SS21) when he lost his rear windscreen, but all five starters made it to the finish.
Rally 2 restarter Khalid Al-Suwaidi was fourth in a Skoda Fabia, 47m06s behind Ptaszek, while Serderidis, who retired on the opening day, was fifth.
Clean sweep keeps Lappi on title target
Finn on course to wrap up the WRC 2 title on Sunday
DAY 2 HIGHLIGHTS VIDEO
Aussie showdown for Lappi's WRC 2 title bid
Second place this week will secure him the title