Finland WRC: Lappi secures first win despite late drama

Toyota's rookie star Esapekka Lappi held on for his maiden WRC win in Rally Finland, despite sustaining rear-left wheel damage in the penultimate stage.

Finland WRC: Lappi secures first win despite late drama
Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Toyota Yaris WRC, Toyota Racing
Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Toyota Yaris WRC, Toyota Racing
Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Toyota Yaris WRC, Toyota Racing
Elfyn Evans, Daniel Barritt, Ford Fiesta WRC, M-Sport
Elfyn Evans, Daniel Barritt, Ford Fiesta WRC, M-Sport
Elfyn Evans, Daniel Barritt, Ford Fiesta WRC, M-Sport
Juho Hänninen, Kaj Lindström, Toyota Yaris WRC, Toyota Racing
Juho Hänninen, Kaj Lindström, Toyota Yaris WRC, Toyota Racing
Teemu Suninen, Mikko Markkula, Ford Fiesta WRC, M-Sport

Lappi, contesting only his fourth event in the championship's top class, inherited a big lead on Saturday when experienced teammate Jari-Matti Latvala retired with an ECU issue.

The rookie had been managing his advantage at the top of the timesheets since, but had a scare on SS24, the second run through the 6.8km Lempaa stage.

Toyota reported, however, that his car was in good condition after the dented wheel was changed, and Lappi saw out the rally with no additional trouble, finishing 36 seconds in the clear.

Behind Lappi, the trio of M-Sport's Teemu Suninen, DMACK's Elfyn Evans and Toyota's Juho Hanninen had been locked in an ultra-close battle for second with two stages left.

Suninen, in his second main-class rally, looked set to pull away from the pair on SS24, but lost the car at high speed, sustaining a big hit to the front of his Ford Fiesta WRC and losing almost 20 seconds.

This left Hanninen and Evans to duke it out for runner-up, with the Toyota man entering the Power Stage - the 10km Oittila – a second ahead.

But a minor mistake from Hanninen early in SS25 allowed Evans to retake the advantage in the battle, and the Toyota man came up 0.3s short of beating the Welshman to runner-up.

Evans, in the end, claimed his third second-place finish in WRC, while Hanninen had to settle third and his maiden WRC podium.

Suninen brought it home in fourth, with Craig Breen finishing fifth as the lead Citroen.

Championship contender Thierry Neuville was sixth, the highest-placed Hyundai in what turned out a painful Rally Finland for the Korean maque.

With points leader Sebastien Ogier having exited the rally early, Neuville scored 11 points – eight for his finishing position and three for the Power Stage result – to draw level with the Frenchman. He has three 2017 wins to Ogier's two, meaning he now leads the title race on countback.

Ogier's regular-season teammate Ott Tanak took seventh, topping the Power Stage from Evans and Neuville.

Last year's Rally Finland winner Kris Meeke was a muted eighth for Citroen, ahead of Hyundai's Dani Sordo and the privateer Ford of Mads Ostberg.

Latvala returned to action on Sunday after his retirement on Saturday, but was only fourth through the Power Stage, picking up two points.

WRC2 also had a rookie Finn taking the honours in Jari Huttunen, who scored a comfortable win on his category debut.

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Finland WRC: Lappi stays in front of three-way fight

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