Lappi laps it up as he cruises to WRC2 win
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.