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WRC Rally Italy

Lappi frustrated to miss out on "big chance" for WRC victory in Italy

Esapekka Lappi declared Hyundai’s World Rally Championship 1-2 in Sardinia an "important team result”, but was left frustrated by not being able to fight for the win.

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

The Finn produced one of the drives of his WRC career as he became locked in an intense fight for victory with Toyota’s Sebastien Ogier for 14 of the 19 gravel stages, held in challenging weather conditions.

Lappi ended Friday with a 0.1-second lead over the eight-time world champion only to fall 18.2s behind at the end of Saturday morning.

However, Lappi applied pressure to close to within 4.3s of Ogier, who lost time to a damaged radiator incurred in a water splash on Saturday afternoon.

In Saturday’s penultimate stage Ogier crashed out of the lead in the wet conditions, which appeared to hand the one-time WRC rally winner an opportunity. Lappi was informed of the accident ahead of him on the road by his team and therefore backed off.

However, in doing so team-mate Neuville, who was further into the stage, was unaware of the Ogier’s crash and as a result leapfrogged Lappi into a comfortable 23.8s lead, which ballooned to 36.4s by the end of the day.

“It was a very important result for our team we wanted to push for the victory and we got a 1-2," Lappi told Motorsport.com.

“I feel maybe a bit less [frustrated] than yesterday but still there is something that I’m missing. I had a big chance for it [the victory] so it is frustrating when you can’t really fight for it.

“I’m not saying I would have taken its but at least it would be nice to fight for it to the end.”

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Hyundai has made it clear that its main focus for the drivers’ championship is Neuville which has already prompted team orders to help elevate the Belgian in rallies.

Team principal Cyril Abiteboul refuted suggestions that the team issued a team order to Lappi when Ogier crashed out, but understood his driver’s frustrations at missing out on a win.

“I understand his frustration and just to be clear there was no team order, we simply informed him that Seb was out of the game [in stage 14] and therefore he was doing what he had to do in those conditions, which was to manage pace and risk versus reward," Abiteboul told Motorsport.com.

“It meant that he lost position to Thierry. I think he recognised the team’s strategy and situation and I fully understand his frustration. I think from being consistent in what we want to do from a championship perspective will benefit not just Thierry but also for him.

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Speaking directly after the rally finish when Lappi revealed his frustrations at missing out on the victory, Abiteboul said: “I have seen the comments from Esapekka you can feel he is happy, but you can feel his frustration, but he is very much part of this success.

“For me, he has been the man of the rally. He was remarkable at applying pressure when it mattered to Seb and equally Thierry was fantastic in stage 14, which was clearly the defining moment of the weekend."

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Previous article Rovanpera surprised by WRC Sardinia points haul after "clever drive"
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