Circuit of Ireland ERC: Esapekka Lappi clinches dominant Skoda win

Finland's Esapekka Lappi moved to the top of the European Rally Championship standings with a commanding win on the Circuit of Ireland

Circuit of Ireland ERC: Esapekka Lappi clinches dominant Skoda win

Skoda driver Lappi led the event from start to finish, but his job was made more straightforward when rival and Irish hero Craig Breen dropped out with fuel pressure problems on Saturday's opening stage.

Breen's Peugeot 208 T16 had been just 12.6 seconds behind the Fabia S2000 when it failed.

Ahead of the event, the Irishman had made it clear that victory on his home round of the ERC would mean everything. He was distraught at his early bath.

"I lost all the power," he said. "The car wouldn't start. I really don't know what it was. C'est la vie; apparently.

"This is one of the lowest times of my life."

While Breen's exit took the pressure off Lappi, the Finn admitted he had enjoyed the battle.

"It's tough for him," said Lappi. "It was a good fight and I think you learn more when you are fighting like this - but driving with this gap means it's been quite a long day.

"But this is good for me and good for the championship. I really enjoyed this rally, it's a great, great event and one I really didn't expect to win before the start."

Victory for Lappi moves him ahead of Breen in the ERC standings.

Watch ERC video highlights on the AUTOSPORT rallying page

An overshoot on the penultimate stage dropped Ford Fiesta R5 driver Robert Barrable from second to third and ensured a Skoda one-two as Sepp Wiegand took the runner-up spot - albeit close to two minutes behind his rally-winning team-mate.

Barrable remained third, however, ensuring there would be a podium result for one of homegrown heroes.

ERC regular Robert Consani was fourth in his Peugeot 207, while Neil Simpson ended the event fifth and much happier with his second day pace.

"I hadn't been able to hear Claire [Mole, co-driver] very well yesterday," said Simpson, "but we worked on the intercom settings in the helmets last night and that sorted the problem.

"It's always nice to hear what the co-driver's saying in stages as fast as these..."

Leading results after SS18: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Esapekka Lappi Skoda 2h06m15.5s 2. Sepp Wiegand Skoda +1m50.0s 3. Robert Barrable CA1 Ford +1m57.5s 4. Robert Consani Delta Peugeot +5m34.0s 5. Neil Simpson Simpsons Skoda +6m33.5s 6. Daniel McKenna Greer Citroen +10m46.5s 7. Josh Moffett Combilift Mitsubishi +11m00.6s 8. Jan Cerny Czech Peugeot +12m57.4s 9. Jonathan Greer Greer Citroen +13m50.1s 10. Alex Parpottas Ford +15m10.1s 
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Circuit of Ireland ERC: Esapekka Lappi stuns with day one lead
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