Toyota GAZOO Racing world rally team is back on the podium after Esapekka Lappi finished third overall in Rally Italia Sardegna, securing his first podium spot for the 2018 WRC season.
In the rough gravel, dirt and often unseasonably wet conditions run over 20 special stages that totalled more than 300km, Lappi remained consistent throughout, taking his Yaris WRC car to one stage win and finishing well within the top ten in every stage bar one.
Team principal Tommi Mäkinen said it was a well-deserved result for the 27-year-old Finn.
“Very well done to Esapekka on his podium finish. He lost a bit of time on the first day but after that he was doing really well, concentrating well and making no mistakes,” Mäkinen said.
The third place in Sardinia puts Lappi into fourth place in the driver’s standings with six events remaining in the WRC season including the final round in Australia in November.
Lappi is just seven points behind Toyota GAZOO Racing teammate Ott Tänak in third place with Jari-Matti Latvala in ninth.
After a disappointing outing in Portugal, Tänak was on track for a podium finish running in third place overall after a stage win on Day 2 in Sardinia, but was forced to retire after a heavy landing on the final stage of the day.
With a 10 minute penalty, he started Day 3 in 19th place but raced hard and fast to finish the rally in a points position in ninth spot.
“It was a tough weekend with many lessons learned. Generally, the feeling is good, we are really fast, now we just need a bit of consistency. I know we can do it. As a team we are still young but we are learning quickly,” Tänak said.
Day 3 also saw an intense battle for the podium position between Lappi and Latvala with the two Finns never separated by more than a few seconds in their Toyota Yaris WRCs.
Unfortunately an alternator problem forced Latvala to stop on the road section back to service, prompting a penalty going into the final day.
However, three stage finishes in the top five and a seventh in the final power stage ensured Latvala also took home points in seventh position overall.
The Toyota GAZOO Racing team is now looking forward to a home advantage for the next WRC round in Finland that starts on July 26 with Lappi hoping to repeat his 2017 outright victory.