With the final leg starting with the stage on which they went off last year, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm knew that a tough job lay ahead of them today. Their off in 2018 also meant that they had no experience of driving the second stage of the loop at full speed. Totally in control of proceedings throughout the weekend in the C3 WRC, the Finns nonetheless had to show great steel today. After limiting the time lost on the first runs, whilst also confirming their pace notes, they then moved clear of the third-placed crew on the second pass. They went on to equal their best result so far with the Red Army (runners-up in Sweden) and secured a richly deserved podium at their home round, just rewards for their undeniable improvement!
This second podium of the season for the Lappi-Ferm crew, the sixth of their short WRC career, is also the eighth in nine rounds this season for the Citroën Total World Rally Team.
Esapekka and Janne showed their intentions right from the word go, setting the second fastest time – just a tenth down on the lead time – on the first proper stage (19.34km). They then confirmed their promising start as they made it to the end of the opening leg in third position, just 2.4s off the pace. Full of confidence in the C3 WRC on these roads that leave no room for hesitation, they went even better on Saturday’s leg. Two more stage wins (SS16 & SS18) amidst the four-way battle for the lead took them up to second place, with handy lead of 12.4s over the third-placed crew. An advantage that they managed masterfully on today’s short final leg, like a couple of seasoned campaigners!
Second on the road on Friday and therefore obliged to sweep the fine layer of loose gravel off the roads, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia managed to limit the time lost, ending day in seventh position, just 12.9s off the podium. Unfortunately, Sébastien then suffered a disrupted night’s sleep after falling ill and was forced to reset his sights for Saturday’s leg. He nonetheless showed great persistence and determination to fight against the exhaustion he felt and move up to fifth overall, within striking distance of fourth place. Having enjoyed a better night’s sleep, he went back on the offensive on Sunday with the same tenacity, but missed out on fourth place by just 2.7s. The points scored at this rally, including two bonus points earned in the Power Stage thanks to setting the fourth fastest time, mean he still lies second in the drivers’ championship and in contention for a seventh consecutive world title.