Lappi laps it up as he cruises to WRC2 win

Motor Sport News - - Rally Australia -

Open goals don’t re­ally ex­ist in mo­tor­sport. With an en­gine and me­chan­i­cal parts comes the po­ten­tial for any­thing to hap­pen. If an open goal did ex­ist in mo­tor­sport, Es­apekka Lappi stood be­fore it in Aus­tralia last week.

And he stood be­fore it in the right kit and a pair of world-class boots. Un­sur­pris­ingly, he slot­ted home the sim­plest of fin­ishes in his ca­reer to date.

The Skoda Fabia R5-driv­ing Finn came to Coffs Har­bour need­ing first or sec­ond place in WRC2 to take the ti­tle. Hav­ing won the last three rounds of the se­ries in the heat of some fe­ro­cious fight­ing, a top-two on one of the most de­pleted fields of the sea­son wouldn’t be too much trou­ble.

“You never know,” said Lappi with a wry smile be­fore the start.

Three days later, he knew. You got the feel­ing he’d al­ways known.

His fac­tory Fabia was the class of the field. Fastest on ev­ery loose sur­face stage on the first loop, Lappi was 39.8 sec­onds clear of Ni­co­las Fuchs’ pri­vate Skoda by Fri­day lunchtime.

Lappi and Fuchs halved the sec­ond run at Utun­gun, but from then on, the scratch times were an all-fin­nish af­fair.

Fuchs was en­gaged in a scrap for sec­ond place with Pol­ish Peu­geot driver Hu­bert Ptaszek. The Peru­vian lost time when he whacked a wall on the sec­ond run through North­bank on Fri­day af­ter­noon. The re­sul­tant sus­pen­sion dam­age dropped him be­hind the 208 T16.

A mis­take from Ptaszek – he went the wrong way on the Coffs Har­bour su­per­spe­cial stage – al­lowed Fuchs back in front at the end of Fri­day, but only 6.6s sep­a­rated the pair.

Ptaszek went on the at­tack in the first shot at the event’s long­est stage, the 31-mile Nam­bucca test, but slid­ing wide and dan­gling the Peu­geot’s rear in a ditch re­minded him that dis­cre­tion re­ally was the bet­ter part of val­our. He backed off and made the fin­ish, but the deal was done back in the same stage later in the day when he dropped a minute and a half af­ter pick­ing up a right-rear punc­ture.

Fuchs would be sec­ond. And a dis­tant sec­ond. Lappi was fastest ev­ery­where on Satur­day, build­ing a four-minute buf­fer for the fi­nal day.

“I’m very glad to fin­ish this event,” said Lappi. “There wasn’t so much com­pe­ti­tion here, but I was able to use Lorenzo [Bertelli, Ford Fi­esta RS WRC] as a bench­mark!”

Like Lappi, French­man Michel Fabre was mak­ing his de­but on Aus­tralia’s WRC round and, like Lappi, he dom­i­nated his class. Fabre’s dom­i­na­tion was born out of the fact that he was the only starter in WRC3, how­ever.

Lappi claimed the ti­tle with a vic­tory

Lappi built a solid lead on the first day

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