A highly combative performance on Sunday’s final leg in their C3 WRC saw Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm hold off the attacks of their fiercely competitive rivals to secure second place overall, their first podium for Citroën Total World Rally Team. Recent winners of the Rallye Monte-Carlo, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia meanwhile used all of their talent and determination to grab two bonus points on the Power Stage, despite the disappointment of retiring earlier in the rally.
It seems that Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm really do feel at home on Sunday’s final leg at Rally Sweden! Like last year, the Finnish crew remained impressively relaxed throughout the final leg, this time securing a fine second place with control and authority. This runner-up spot was their first podium finish since joining Citroën. It was also their best result at this rally in only their third appearance here and took him up to fifth place in the championship standings.
After winning in Monte-Carlo, it’s also the second podium finish this season in as many events for Citroën Total World Rally Team, following a race during which the C3 WRC stood out for both its competitiveness (three stage wins) and its exemplary reliability.
Lappi’s highly promising performance on only his second competitive outing in the C3 WRC came following a race during which he gradually upped his pace. Fifth at the end of day one, including a spin that left him having to deal with a damaged aerodynamic package, Esapekka then upped his pace on Saturday’s leg. He gained three places, taking him into joint second position, before displaying even more convincing form today. Joint second this morning, with another driver just 2.3s behind, the 28 year-old driver landed a telling blow on the first pass on Likenäs (21.19km). On this ultra fast stage, on which you really need to be perfectly at one with your car, his third fastest time put paid to the threat posed by the first of his rivals whilst adding two tenths to his advantage over the second one. However, he was far from finished! On the second run on the stage, he finished within just six tenths of the stage-winning time to give him a 4.4s lead over the third-placed driver going into the Torsby Power Stage (8.93km). He held onto second overall on the final test, whilst also grabbing the final bonus point!
Despite the clear disadvantage of running first on the road, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia made a fine start to the rally, ending day one just outside the podium places (fifth overall, 14.4s off the pace). However, first to come up against the water-filled ruts left by the historic cars completing the stages between the morning and afternoon loops, the six-time world champions were unfortunately caught out on SS6.They became stuck in a snow bank and had to retire for the day. They rejoined on Saturday looking to run in-competition tests and work on the set-up of their C3 WRC. However, they refused to be discouraged and maintained their commitment, managing to claim three stage wins (SS10, SS11 and SS14). Focused today on trying to secure a few points on the Power Stage, they set the fourth fastest time to come away with two bonus points. Now lying third in the championship standings, they head for the next round knowing they will have a decent starting position in Mexico.
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver
“Obviously, I had hoped for a better result, but it’s always difficult to do well when you open the road here. A lot of the crews hit the snow banks, including us. We were also a bit unlucky in that we got stuck in one of the rare spots where there were no spectators. We did our very best on the Power Stage, even though once again the conditions were far from ideal for us. I’m already focused on Mexico.“
Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver
“I knew after testing that we had worked well and that was confirmed during this rally, which I really enjoy. The conditions this weekend were nonetheless quite a bit different so we gradually worked on improving the set-up of our C3 WRC, which helped us to feel increasingly confident in the car and to up our pace as we completed more of the stages. I’m delighted with this result. It kick starts our season and augurs really well for the rest of the year!”
TWO QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL
How would you describe the performance of Esapekka and Janne?
Surprising! Obviously, we knew that they were capable of producing performances like this one, but I think they impressed us again with their relaxed, controlled approach, gradually upping their rhythm after their spin on day one. Little by little, they pushed more without making any other mistakes. It’s really satisfying to see them obtain the second best result of their career WRC in only their second race in the C3 WRC, especially as they’re both really easy going and nice lads, with whom it is a huge pleasure to work.
Sébastien and Julien, on the other hand, were very unlucky…
We knew how tough it would be for them to open the road here, where grip levels on the stages tend to increase as more cars complete. Sure enough, that’s how it was working out, although they were doing very well up until they made their minor mistake. They nonetheless reacted well, refusing to be discouraged and working with the team on getting to know the C3 WRC. Indeed, their unwavering determination was rewarded on the Power Stage. Like Esapekka and Janne, they also proved – with three stage wins – that our car, having finished second here last year, is definitely at ease on these stages. And yet it is a tough event to get to grips with, given that we don’t race on ice and snow very often at all. We are encouraged to continue with our efforts and keep our good form going in Mexico, where we can expect the fight at the front to be at least as intense as it was here.
THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEKEND, BY JANNE FERM
A key player in and first-hand witness of the improving form of Esapekka Lappi during the weekend, Janne Ferm told us all about today’s sprint finish!
“Throughout the weekend, the atmosphere in the cockpit of our C3 WRC was one of calm relaxation, concentration and determination, and this morning was no different! I was convinced that we were capable of finishing second, but I’m also too familiar with the world of rallying to know it’s never over until it’s over… We pushed all the way, tackling each stage in turn without getting ahead of ourselves. Each time we reached the end of the Likenas stage, even before I had seen the time, I was pleased because I felt that we had given everything and the times reflected that. It’s a test where you have to literally let it all go and I knew that Esapekka had been totally committed and pushed to the max!“
FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:47:30.0
2. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +53.7
3. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 56.7
4. Mikkelsen / Jaeger-Amland (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:05.4
5. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:08.2
6. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:38.8
7. Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:49.7
8. Tidemand / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:37.7
29. Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +24:19.0
DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Ott Tänak – 47 points
2. Thierry Neuville – 40 points
3. Sébastien Ogier – 31 points
4. Kris Meeke – 21 points
5. Esapekka Lappi – 19 points
6. Sébastien Loeb – 18 points
7. Elfyn Evans – 13 points
8. Andreas Mikkelsen – 12 points
9. Jari-Matti Latvala – 10 points
MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1 Toyota Gazoo Racing – 58 points
2. Hyundai WRT – 57 points
3. Citroën Total WRT – 47 points
4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 30 points