Esapekka Lappi fulfilled his billing as pre-event favourite by dominating WRC 2 at Neste Oil Rally Finland on Friday.
The Finn won seven of the nine stages in his Skoda Fabia R5 to lead by 68.0sec from team-mate Pontus Tidemand. Stéphane Lefebvre piloted Citroën’s DS 3 RRC into third, a further 33.9sec behind.
Lappi won three of the four morning tests to build a near-30sec lead over Jarkko Nikara after Tidemand conceded second when he damaged his suspension and punctured his Fabia’s rear left tyre after crashing into a ditch.
Four more wins in the afternoon put him in a commanding position, especially when Nikara, standing in for injured series leader Jari Ketomaa, suffered a broken driveshaft and engine problems in his Ford Fiesta R5 and dropped to fifth.
“A problem-free day with enjoyable stages, it doesn’t get any better,” said Lappi. “But the rally is not even halfway though, so still a long way to go.”
Lefebvre won the final stage to add to his victory over the same test in Thursday night’s curtain-raiser. The Frenchman was 1min 12.8sec ahead of Yurii Protasov, with Australian Scott Pedder showing his best form this year to hold sixth behind Nikara.
Eyvind Brynildsen’s challenge ended after electrical problems were followed by a roll, but the Norwegian still won a stage in his Fiesta R5. He was 12th.
Retirements included Craig Breen (engine), Nicolas Fuchs (broken steering), Sander Pärn (ripped wheel off), Quentin Giordano and Fredrik Åhlin.
• Title challenger Nasser Al-Attiyah has confirmed he will switch from his usual Ford Fiesta RRC to a Skoda Fabia R5 for the next round at ADAC Rallye Deutschland.