MOTORSPORT NEWS Rally

LAPPI SET TO WIN ERC TITLE

The stage is set for ŠKODA driver Esapekka Lappi (FIN) at the season finale of the FIA European Rally Championship (ERC): The Finn’s path to winning the title is clear after his brand colleague Sepp Wiegand (D) is no longer able to take part in the legendary “Tour de Corse” from Thursday to Saturday after his car caught fire during testing before the event. For the third time in a row, a driver of the successful Fabia Super 2000 model will be added to the list of ERC champions. Juho Hänninen (FIN) started the Czech car manufacturer’s winning streak in 2012. In 2013 victory went to Jan Kopecký (CZ), who won the title in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) for ŠKODA this year.

Esapekka Lappi
Esapekka Lappi
 In addition to the titles in the APRC and four national championships in 2014 alone, the early certain victory in the European continental championship is the icing on the cake of another extremely successful rally season for ŠKODA. Unfortunately the ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland team won’t be taking part. The German duo Sepp Wiegand/Frank Christian came off the track in a left-hand bend during pre-event testing on Monday. Dry grass at the scene of the accident was set alight by their car’s hot exhaust, setting the car on fire. Sepp Wiegand and Frank Christian weren’t hurt. However, because there isn’t enough time to repair their Fabia Super 2000, they are unable to start the “Tour de Corse”.

“I feel really bad for Sepp Wiegand and Frank Christian, we were looking forward to the thrilling ŠKODA battle for the title with our fiercest rivals,” said Lappi: “We now need to single-handedly try to round off this successful season for ŠKODA on Corsica. After our third victory this season in Switzerland, naturally we are very confident heading to Corsica.” Wiegand will be crossing his fingers for his brand colleague Lappi at the rally: “I’m very disappointed. I’m really sorry that the slip-up had such drastic consequences – I’m also sorry for the whole team,” he said visibly dejected. “I’d like to thank everyone who worked so hard to give us the chance to still be fighting for the title here.” Some consolation for the 23-year-old German is that he is still in with a chance of finishing second in the overall standings, which would mean a ŠKODA one-two victory.

The winner of the season finale will be decided on eleven varied special stages covering 251.50 kilometres on Corsica. Porto Vecchio in the south east of the island is the starting point for the first time. There, where the legendary “Tour de France” cycle race started with ŠKODA as a partner in 2013, the wild chase on winding asphalt tracks between the seashore and rugged onmountains gets underway as of Thursday. The new starting point means that some legs are completely new to all driver teams – they will set the scene for the thrilling ŠKODA showdown.

As in the ERC, the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) has already been decided. ŠKODA won the manufacturers’ and drivers’ standings in the APRC for the third time in a row*. ŠKODA works driver Jan Kopecký (CZ) also secured the drivers’ title before the end of the season – ahead of his team-mate Gaurav Gill (IND), who won the championship last year. European champion Kopecký is the first rally driver to have won the ERC followed by the APRC in two consecutive years. The grand finale of the APRC season will take place from 7 to 9 November in ŠKODA’s biggest market, China.

These victories and championship titles are inextricably linked to the successful Fabia Super 2000. The high-tech four-wheel drive from Mladá Boleslav has also been successful in national rally championships. Belgium’s rally old hand “Fast” Freddy Loix, who won the FIA European Rally Championship race in his home country in the Fabia Super 2000 in June, won the Belgian championship title. Before that, Pedro Meireles (P), supported by ŠKODA Portugal, won the championship in Portugal. Old hand Raimund Baumschlager (A) also won his twelfth rally championship title overall in Austria in the Fabia Super 2000. On top of that, Poles Grzegorz Grzyb/Robert Hundla won the championship in Slovakia.