WRC Rally Estonia: M-Sport’s Lappi draws first blood in opening stage

M-Sport Ford's Esapekka Lappi drew first blood in the restart of the 2020 World Rally Championship, claiming top spot on the first stage of Rally Estonia.

Lappi swept to top spot after overcoming seven-time champion and current points leader Sébastien Ogier, as the first rally since the COVID-19-enforced hiatus got underway this evening in front of thousands of socially-distanced fans on the short 1.28-km spectator stage at Tartu.

Ogier got the ball rolling with what appeared to be a rather tentative run through the stage in his Toyota Yaris WRC, stopping the clocks with a time of 1m17.0s on the narrow, twisting gravel.

Britain's Elfyn Evans, who led the drivers' standings briefly back in March after taking victory in Sweden, guided the second Toyota through with even greater circumspection, his time more than half a second off the Frenchman's run.

Thierry Neuville then overdid his run at the start; this year's Monte Carlo Rally winner fired his Hyundai I20 Coupe WRC wide on the second corner of the rally and slithered to the finish 1.5 seconds adrift of Ogier's target time.

Several other front-runners found that the Tartu stage presented a serious challenge, with the hefty straw bales claiming several expensive chunks of aerodynamic equipment as the evening progressed.

Among those who sent the hay flying was the reigning world champion Ott Tanak, who ended up just 0.1s off the lead at his home event.

But Lappi then took advantage, the Finn shading Ogier's time in the Fiesta WRC by hundredths of a second.

After his car was destroyed by fire at the last event in Mexico, and in a difficult financial climate for his team, Lappi was equally surprised and delighted to have set the pace.

"It didn't feel that good to be honest," he said.

"This is not really what the stages will be tomorrow but we had a good shakedown, a good opening stage, [so I'm] looking forward!"

With Lappi and Ogier heading Tanak at the top of the timesheets, Craig Breen - a former winner of Rally Estonia - threw down his marker to hold fourth overnight in one of his outings in the works Hyundai squad, sitting 0.2s ahead of Evans.

In the WRC2 category, current points leader Mads Ostberg stamped his authority on the other junior runners, setting sixth fastest time overall at the wheel of his Citroen C3 R5.

Ostberg's closest challenger was Swedish driver Pontus Tidemand, winner of the previous round in Mexico, who sat 0.2s behind in ninth overall in his Skoda Fabia R5.

Tidemand was uncertain of continuing with the championship due to an absence of funds, but the post-COVID calendar has greatly reduced travel budgets and his sponsor-less presence has guaranteed a strong battle with Ostberg in the days ahead.

The rally restarts tomorrow morning with the 21km Prangli stage starting at 07:40, opening a busy 11-stage itinerary for the day.

WRC Rally Estonia SS1 times

Pos Class Driver Car Gap
1 RC1 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia Toyota 1m17.0s
1 RC1 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm Ford 1m17.0s
3 RC1 Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja Hyundai 0.1s
4 RC1 Craig Breen, P.Nagle Hyundai 0.4s
5 RC1 Elfyn Evans, S.Martin Toyota 0.6s
6 RC2 Mads Ostberg, T.Eriksen Citroen 1.2s
7 RC2 Pontus Tidemand, P.Barth Skoda 1.4s
7 RC1 Takamoto Katsuta, D.Barritt Toyota 1.4s
7 RC1 Kalle Rovanpera, J.Halttunen Toyota 1.4s
10 RC1 Teemu Suninen, J.Lehtinen Ford 1.5s
10 RC1 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai 1.5s
10 RC2 Jari Huttunen, M.Lukka Hyundai 1.5s
13 RC2 Oliver Solberg, A.Johnston Volkswagen 1.6s
14 RC1 Gus Greensmith, E.Edmondson Ford 1.7s
14 RC2 Nikolay Gryazin, K.Aleksandrov Hyundai 1.7s
16 RC2 Ole-Christian Veiby, J.Andersson Hyundai 1.9s
17 RC2 Eerik Pietarinen, A.Linnaketo Skoda 2.0s
18 RC2 Gregoire Munster, L.Louka Hyundai 2.1s
19 RC2 Eyvind Brynildsen, I.Minor Skoda 2.2s
20 RC2 Kajetan Kajetanowicz, M.Szczepaniak Skoda 2.4s
21 RC2 Georg Linnamae, V.Korsya Volkswagen 2.6s
21 RC2 Egon Kaur, S.Simm Skoda 2.6s
23 RC2 Adrien Fourmaux, R.Jamoul Ford 2.7s
24 RC2 Yohan Rossel, B.Fulcrand Citroen 2.9s
25 RC2 Rainer Aus, S.Koskinen Skoda 3.2s
26 RC2 Sean Johnston, A.Kihurani Citroen 3.3s
27 RC1 Pierre-Louis Loubet, V.Landais Hyundai 3.4s
28 RC2 Karl Kruuda, D.Moscatt Volkswagen 3.6s
29 RC2 Jan Solans, M.Barreiro Ford 3.7s
30 RC1 Georg Gross, R.Molder Ford 3.9s
30 RC2 Raul Jeets, A.Toom Skoda 3.9s
32 RC2 Nicolas Ciamin, Y.Roche Citroen 4.1s
32 RC2 Marco Bulacia Wilkinson, M.Der Ohannesian Citroen 4.1s
34 RC2 Emilio Fernandez, R.Garcia Skoda 4.9s
35 RC1 Kimmo Kurkela, R.Hamalainen Ford 5.0s
35 RC2 Roland Poom, E.Lepikson Ford 5.0s
37 RC2 Gustav Kruuda, K.Jarveoja Volkswagen 5.6s
38 RC2 Alexander Rzhevkin, Y.Fedorov Skoda 6.0s
39 RC2 Priit Koik, A-Uku Heldna Ford 7.1s
40 RC4 Sami Pajari, A.Haapala Ford 7.3s
41 RC2 Jaroslaw Koltun, I.Pleskot Ford 8.0s
42 RC2 Rakan Al-Rashed, H.Magalhaes Volkswagen 8.1s
43 RC4 Tom Kristensson, J.Sjoberg Ford 8.3s
44 RC2 Radik Shaymiev, A.Arnautov Ford 9.4s
45 RC4 Martins Sesks, R.Francis Ford 9.5s
46 RC4 Raul Badiu, G.Lazar Ford 9.9s
46 RC4 Ruairi Bell, D.Garrod Ford 9.9s
46 RC4 Fabrizio Zaldivar, F.Mussano Ford 9.9s
49 RC4 Ken Torn, K.Pannas Ford 10.2s
50 RC4 Robert Virves, S.Pruul Ford 10.8s
51 RC4 Enrico Oldrati, E.De Guio Ford 10.9s
52 RC4 Marco Pollara, M.Messina Ford 11.1s
53 RC4 Kaspar Kasari, J.Viilo Ford 11.5s
54 RC4 Pontus Lonnstrom, S.Gustavsson Ford 12.0s
55 RC4 Vladas Jurkevicius, A.Paliukenas Ford 12.4s
56 RC4 Fabio Andolfi, S.Savoia Ford 12.7s
57 RC4 Justas Simaska, T.Simaska Ford 14.0s
58 RC4 Gregor Jeets, K.Sikk Ford 15.3s
59 RC2 Mika Karppanen, A.Heinonen Citroen 15.8s

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