Latvia ERC: Esapekka Lappi dominates final day
|Sunday, February 2nd 2014, 13:33 GMT|
Skoda's rising Finnish star Esapekka Lappi clinched his second victory in the revamped European Rally Championship with a win in Latvia's Rally Liepaja.
Lappi had hunted down and overhauled surprise early leader Vasily Gryazin on Saturday, only for the 20-year-old Russian to fight back first thing on Sunday morning and immediately reclaim the lead.
That prompted a firm response from Lappi, who proceeded to blitz all rivals over the rest of the morning - topping SS9 by 9.6 seconds even though he had a 360-degree spin mid-stage. His final victory margin was 34.7s.
With the Ice Masters scores including bonus points for individual stage results as well as overall finishing positions, Robert Kubica emerged as champion thanks to the points he accrued on his victorious one-off outing in Austria last month, an event Lappi did not contest.
Gryazin soon switched focus to securing the first ERC podium of his fledgling career, which he managed despite his Sports Racing Technologies Ford Fiesta getting stuck in fourth gear on the penultimate stage.
A rapid gearbox change at the service before the last stage ensured he made it to the end.
Craig Breen was a distant third. He was rarely happy with his Sainteloc Peugeot 207's set-up on its final appearance before the 208 T16 arrives, but was still able to keep 2013 Rally Poland winner Kajetan Kajetanowicz at bay as the gap between them ebbed and flowed.
Sepp Wiegand recovered from a hesitant start to take fifth place in the other factory Skoda Fabia, having been as low as 22nd early on.
After taking his maiden World Rally Championship podium with second in Monte Carlo, Bryan Bouffier had an unhappy return to the ERC.
He won the opening stage but then had to retire after a mistake on SS2 damaged his PH Sport Citroen's radiator.
Leading finishers after SS12: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Esapekka Lappi Skoda 2h13m11.5s 2. Vasily Gryazin SRT Ford +34.7s 3. Craig Breen Sainteloc Peugeot +1m36.8s 4. Kajetan Kajetanowicz M-Sport Poland Ford +2m35.5s 5. Sepp Wiegand Skoda +3m16.1s 6. Janis Vorobjovs Mitsubishi +5m42.6s* 7. Vitaliy Pushkar Boar Mitsubishi +6m50.8s* 8. Stanislav Travnikov Prospeed Mitsubishi +7m15.9s* 9. Martynas Samuitis Wellman Mitsubishi +7m23.2s* 10. Jan Cerny Czech Peugeot +8m37.2s** * Production class ** Junior class