Estonia WRC: M-Sport’s Esapekka Lappi takes early lead

The 2020 FIA World Rally Championship has officially restarted as Rally Estonia got underway on Friday evening in front of thousands of socially-distanced fans on the short 1.28-km spectator stage at Tartu vald.

Estonia WRC: M-Sport’s Esapekka Lappi takes early lead

Seven-time champion and current points leader Sebastien 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 1m 17.0s 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 showed why the softly-softly approach might well have been prudent. This year’s Monte Carlo Rally winner fired his Hyundai I20 Coupe WRC wide on the second corner of the rally and spent most of his time looking through the side windows as he slithered to the finish 1.5 seconds adrift of Ogier’s target time.

Several other front-runners found that Tartu vald 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, Estonia’s own Ott Tanak, who still drew the biggest cheers of the night as he ended up just 0.1s off the lead.

However, as the stage bedded in, the man who took fullest advantage was M-Sport’s Esapekka Lappi, the popular 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. “Well this is not really what the stages will be tomorrow but we had a good shakedown, a good opening stage… looking forward!”

With Lappi and Ogier heading Tanak at the top of the timesheet, Irishman 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.

Read Also:

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.

“The nerves are quite big,” the Norwegian said. “It’s been a long wait to feel the importance of a WRC event again.  To be honest I quite enjoy that – it’s nice to be a bit shaky again!”

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 R5.

Back in March, Tidemand was uncertain of continuing on the globe-trotting championship trail 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 on Saturday morning with the 21km Prangli stage starting at 07:40, opening a busy 11-stage itinerary for the day.

Stage 1 results:

Cla Driver/Codriver Car Class Time Gap
1 Finland Esapekka Lappi
Finland Janne Ferm
Ford Fiesta WRC RC1 1'17.000
2 France Sébastien Ogier
France Julien Ingrassia
Toyota Yaris WRC RC1 1'17.000 0.000
3 Estonia Ott Tanak
Estonia Martin Jarveoja
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC RC1 1'17.100 0.100
4 Ireland Craig Breen
Ireland Paul Nagle
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC RC1 1'17.400 0.400
5 United Kingdom Elfyn Evans
United Kingdom Scott Martin
Toyota Yaris WRC RC1 1'17.600 0.600
6 Norway Mads Ostberg
Norway Torstein Eriksen
Citroën C3 R5 RC2 1'18.200 1.200
7 Japan Takamoto Katsuta
United Kingdom Daniel Barritt
Toyota Yaris WRC RC1 1'18.400 1.400
8 Sweden Pontus Tidemand
Patrik Barth
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo RC2 1'18.400 1.400
9 Finland Kalle Rovanperä
Finland Jonne Halttunen
Toyota Yaris WRC RC1 1'18.400 1.400
10 Finland Teemu Suninen
Finland Jarmo Lehtinen
Ford Fiesta WRC RC1 1'18.500 1.500
shares
comments

Related video

Estonia WRC: Tanak leads home event after shakedown
Previous article

Estonia WRC: Tanak leads home event after shakedown

Next article

Estonia WRC: Hyundai in control as local hero Tanak leads Breen

Estonia WRC: Hyundai in control as local hero Tanak leads Breen
Load comments
How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers Prime

How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers

After winning his eighth WRC title, Sebastien Ogier has drawn the curtain on his full-time rallying career. To understand Ogier's legacy, many of his former rivals, team-mates and colleagues have shared their thoughts on a vastly successful career

WRC
Nov 26, 2021
Ranking lost WRC legend Richard Burns' 10 best rallies Prime

Ranking lost WRC legend Richard Burns' 10 best rallies

Richard Burns was a determined driver who took on the best rally drivers in the world during a boom period in the early 2000s, and beat them. On the 20th anniversary of his crowning glory in winning the 2001 WRC title, and 16 years on from his death on the same date, we pick out his 10 greatest drives

WRC
Nov 25, 2021
The internal focus that made Burns a legendary world rally champion Prime

The internal focus that made Burns a legendary world rally champion

At the turn of the millennium, WRC was full to the brim with rallying's great and good - and 20 years ago on this day, Richard Burns became England's first world rally champion. Although Burns' natural talent drove him to the top, his steely determination and mental strength was the key attribute behind his title-winning form

WRC
Nov 25, 2021
How Ogier emerged from Loeb's shadow to form his own WRC legend Prime

How Ogier emerged from Loeb's shadow to form his own WRC legend

OPINION: Adding an eighth WRC title to his name, Sebastien Ogier has bowed out from full-time rallying in style. Having been compared throughout his career with nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb, Ogier has convincingly demonstrated that he can stand on his own as one of the greatest rally drivers in history

WRC
Nov 22, 2021
How confronting self-doubt drove Ogier to become a WRC legend Prime

How confronting self-doubt drove Ogier to become a WRC legend

This weekend's Rally Monza marks the end of an era in the World Rally Championship, as Sebastien Ogier prepares to bring down the curtain on his full-time career with an eighth title. For all his enduring success, the Toyota driver reveals in an exclusive interview that lingering insecurities have compelled his quest for perfection

WRC
Nov 18, 2021
The third generation McRae on his way to the WRC Prime

The third generation McRae on his way to the WRC

The McRae family name is steeped in rallying history, with eight British titles between Jimmy, Colin and Alister - plus the small matter of the 1995 WRC title too. Next on the conveyor of talent is Alister's 17-year-old Max McRae, who’s setting out in Australia to conquer the world of rallying and return the famous name to the WRC...

WRC
Nov 12, 2021
Inside Hyundai’s radical approach to prepare for the WRC hybrid era Prime

Inside Hyundai’s radical approach to prepare for the WRC hybrid era

As the World Rally Championship undergoes its biggest shift in regulations for a generation, teams are taking radical measures to prepare for its new era. Hyundai's unique approach involved conducting a private 1500km rally in Italy and Motorsport.com went to see how the team is preparing for 2022

WRC
Nov 4, 2021
How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain Prime

How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain

While all pre-event chat focused on the two World Rally Championship title fighters, their closest challenger charged into the spotlight on Rally Spain. Thierry Neuville's star turn and another strong drive from Elfyn Evans in his fight with Sebastien Ogier made for an intriguing event as the 2021 campaign nears its crunch point

WRC
Oct 18, 2021