SS8: Lappi charges

A rejuvenated Esapekka Lappi won Saturday afternoon’s opening speed test at Corsica linea - Tour de Corse to increase the pressure on those clustered ahead on the leaderboard.

Stage info: SS8

Cagnano – Pino – Canari 2, 35.61km
Saturday’s opener crosses Corsica’s narrow northern tip from the east before winding down the west coast. After several hairpins at Cagnano, it climbs to the Serra pass before a descent punctuated with corners leads to Luri. Wider roads bring higher speeds as the stage scales the Santa-Lucia pass before diving downhill to Pino. The second half follows narrow, twisty roads and after the villages of Barrettali and Canari, a final hairpin leads to the finish.

The Finn’s confidence was transformed after overnight suspension and differential changes to his Toyota Yaris, and he charged through the repeat of the long special stage from Cagnano to Canari 2.2sec quicker than Sébastien Loeb.

Importantly, Lappi regained significant time from Thierry Neuville, Kris Meeke and Ott Tänak. He virtually halved his deficit to Tänak in one swoop and lies 12.7sec behind the Estonian with two more stages remaining today.

“It was a pretty good time,” said Lappi with a wry smile. “It’s so easy to overheat the tyres in there but I’m happy with that. The car is 10 times better than yesterday. We found what was the secret. We did a lot of work yesterday and it’s nice to see it’s paid off.”

Sébastien Ogier was third and further increased his advantage over a concerned Neuville to 47.7sec. Neuville made changes to his Hyundai i20 in service and it appears the Belgian made the car worse.

“I made a set-up change and now I’m lacking grip. We need to work on it,” said Neuville, whose advantage over Kris Meeke was cut to 2.5sec.

Meeke and Elfyn Evans were both happier after lunchtime set-up changes, Meeke reverting to the settings that served him so well here 12 months ago before retiring from the lead.

Jari-Matti Latvala finished with significant damage to the rear of his Yaris. “We did some changes in service and the car felt fantastic, so I pushed. But I pushed a little too much, braked too late, went sideways and hit a tree with the back of the car,” said Latvala, who dropped 18 minutes and retired.

Bryan Bouffier parked his Fiesta after 13.90km with engine problems and retired from today’s action.

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