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Stage report
WRC Rally Chile

WRC Chile: Lappi suffers heavy roll on opening stage

Hyundai World Rally Championship driver Esapekka Lappi has suffered a heavy roll on the opening stage of Rally Chile, ending any hopes of a strong points haul.

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

Lappi misjudged the final corner of the opening gravel test (Pulperia, 19.77km) which resulted in instant retirement from the first day of action from the championship’a return to Chile after a four-year hiatus.

The Finn appeared to clip a concrete culvert with the front left which pitched his i20N into a series of rolls with the finish line in sight.

Lappi and co-driver Janne Ferm emerged from the crash unscathed but their car suffered heavy damage. Bodywork was spread across the road with parts of the car’s roof and a wheel missing.

The car came to rest at the side of the road which meant the stage could continue without stoppage.

However, Lappi’s early exit will come as a blow to the Hyundai team that is hoping to prolong the manufacturers’ title battle with Toyota closing in on a third consecutive crown.

 

M-Sport’s Ott Tanak came through the stage with the fastest time to take an early rally lead. The 2019 world champion admitted that the test was “fun but extremely demanding”, after posting a time 2.1s than Hyundai’s Teemu Suninen.

Toyota’s Elfyn Evans, who topped Thursday’s shakedown, posted the third-quickest time (+4.9s) having started second on the loose gravel road.

M-Sport’s Pierre-Louis Loubet reached the stage end in fourth as the Frenchman made the most of his road position.

Championship leader Kalle Rovanpera, who could seal a second world title this weekend, struggled dealing with the loose gravel starting first on the road. The Finn was fifth-fastest, 10s slower than stage winner Tanak.

"I'm not surprised [they're faster on the splits] to be honest, it was really dry - much more loose than expected," said Rovanpera. “It is definitely one of the worst stages I have done this year driving wise.”

Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville also found the going tough reporting a lack of grip that contributed to the Belgian’s 12.6s time loss.

Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta was seventh-fastest ahead of Rally2 runners Oliver Solberg, Sami Pajari and Nikolay Gryazin, who rounded out the top 10.

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