LAPPI

MAKES THE BEST OF A BAD JOB IN WRC2

Motor Sport News - - Review: Wrc Supports -

There was an el­e­ment of farce about this year’s sup­port se­ries in the World Rally Cham­pi­onship – so much so that change has been forced for next sea­son.

Es­apekka Lappi won the WRC2 ti­tle in Aus­tralia, which was great for the him, but hope­less for fans try­ing to fathom who’s do­ing what: Lappi had been out of the run­ning all year long be­fore he walked to an em­bar­rass­ingly com­fort­able win Down Un­der. That vic­tory in New South Wales be­lied what had been, on oc­ca­sion that the lead­ing con­tenders had come to­gether, a fierce bat­tle and it some­what sul­lied the WRC2 ti­tle.

When El­fyn Evans com­pleted his seven rounds, he was 27 points ahead of Teemu Suni­nen, seem­ingly his near­est ri­val. Had it not been for a dodgy fuel rail sen­sor in Ar­gentina or him whack­ing the sus­pen­sion in Por­tu­gal, the ti­tle would have been his.

At this point Lappi was pretty much nowhere: 40 points be­hind and ap­par­ently out of the pic­ture. But when the Skoda driver took vic­tory on his first visit to Wales – and his team­mate Pon­tus Tide­mand turned in one of the stages of the sea­son to el­bow Suni­nen out of sec­ond – the Finn’s trip to Coffs Harbour was booked and the cel­e­bra­tions could be­gin early. Yes, this is a me­chan­i­cal sport and any­thing could hap­pen, but the world knew Lappi would win with­out any of his main com­pe­ti­tion in at­ten­dance.

The FIA is de­ter­mined to put an end to this and is look­ing at ways to make sure the fi­nal three rounds are com­mon to all com­peti­tors. That’s en­tirely nec­es­sary to en­sure a worthy and un­der­stand­able ti­tle run-in.

Michel Fabre pro­vided an even worse case of a driver try­ing to dodge the com­pe­ti­tion and land him­self a seat at the FIA’S end of sea­son Gala. Con­test­ing WRC3, the 62-year-old French­man signed up with PH Sport’s Ju­nior Team and picked the rounds no­body else would be go­ing to. WRC3 runs along­side the Ju­nior WRC (and uses the same cat­e­gory of R3 cars), but the Ju­nior driv­ers com­pete on a set cal­en­dar of ral­lies – avoid­ing those means shooting at an open goal for WRC3 glory. Fabre moved to the top of the ta­ble with a hat-trick of wins in Swe­den, Mex­ico and Ar­gentina, but ul­ti­mately missed out on the ti­tle by one point to JWRC win­ner Si­mone Tem­pes­tini.

From a sport­ing per­spec­tive, the right man won – Tem­pes­tini’s ob­vi­ously the quicker of the two – but Fabre’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to land a world ti­tle via a reg­u­la­tory loop­hole has to be ad­mired. The FIA came close to clos­ing WRC3 down for next sea­son, but has in­ex­pli­ca­bly let this lame duck live on into 2017. As­ton­ish­ing.

Tem­pes­tini dom­i­nated a pretty av­er­age Ju­nior fight with three wins and two sec­ond places.

The Drive DMACK Fi­esta Tro­phy was a se­ries which un­der­went a sig­nif­i­cant reg­u­la­tory over­haul pre-sea­son, with a straight­for­ward five round (al­beit the last event count­ing as a double-header) cal­en­dar be­ing chopped up into three prize­giv­ing pairs. Por­tu­gal and Poland dou­bled to of­fer the crew with the most points at the end of those two a pair of prize drives in a 2017 Ford Fi­esta R5; ditto Poland and Fin­land and fi­nally Ger­many and Spain.

Just get­ting peo­ple to un­der­stand this was a task in it­self at the top of the sea­son, but what it de­liv­ered was ex­cep­tional com­pe­ti­tion through­out the year and two Bri­tish win­ners in Osian Pryce and Jon Arm­strong. The Welsh­man and North­ern Ir­ish­man won the first and last pair re­spec­tively, with Max Vata­nen tak­ing the mid­dle two ral­lies.

Pryce won the over­all DDFT ti­tle for ac­cu­mu­lat­ing the most points across what turned out to be a tremen­dously com­pet­i­tive sea­son – with fel­low Brit Gus Green­smith show­ing a solid turn of pace at the same time.

But Pryce was a worthy win­ner and one who showed star­tling speed on days two and three in Fin­land. Had it not been for his ac­ci­dent on the open­ing day, he would al­most cer­tainly have re­lieved Vata­nen of the event win and two more R5 drives next sea­son. ■

Welsh­man Osian Pryce won DDFT Lappi (fourth from the left) clinched WRC2 at the fi­nal round Tem­pes­tini clinched WRC3 by a sin­gle point in the end

Brit El­fyn Evans took wins at the start of the WRC2 cam­paign

Jon Arm­strong was DMACK ace

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