The M Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Esapekka Lappi had a fantastic Friday in the 2020 FIA World Rally Championship season ending ACI Rally Monza.
The Finn who had a great day on Thursday carried his momentum in day two and led right up until the end of the day and heads into the weekend just one second behind Hyundai Motorsports Dani Sordo.
An inspired tyre choice and circuit racing experience put Lappi in the driving seat as he took the lead of the rally following SS2.
Speaking following his day in the car Lappi said:
It’s been a very good day for us. It’s been a while since we were in this position and it doesn’t even matter that we’re not leading at the end of the day – just to be here challenging for that lead is a really positive thing for the whole team. We have a good starting position for tomorrow, and we will definitely try and take back the lead. We have nothing to lose and I will try to do my best. We know that it will be a very tricky day, but normally I am quite good on snow so let’s see what we can do.”
Teemu Suninen was on course for a strong result but just six kilometres into the event his Ford Fiesta EccoBoost suffered an engine misfire and was forced to retire.
Speaking following the action Suninen commented saying:
“I was struggling with the rhythm yesterday, but today started well and we had a really good feeling in the car. The first sector was quick, but after that we had an issue with the engine. I want to say thanks to the team who tried everything to try and fix it, but in the end it proved terminal and we had to retire. It’s a real shame as I had a good rhythm this morning and looking at EP we could have been really strong here. Hopefully EP can continue as he is and bring home a good result for the team – we all deserve that after this tough year.”
Gus Greensmith will have to restart the event on Saturday, having been fourth fastest through SS2 on SS3, just 6.9KM in he and co driver Elliott Edmondson clipped a gate post forcing them to retire from the day.
Greensmith and Edmondson will return to action for Saturday’s mountain stages.
It was a great day for Adrien Fourmaux who ended the day second overall in WRC2. Speaking following the action he said:
“It was a great start to the rally for us with very good pace. Unfortunately we had a puncture in the fifth stage; the first time we used the snow tyres! That was really bad luck, but honestly I am still very happy and positive about my pace. The conditions were very tricky and we were able to set some really competitive times on the wet tyres while almost all of the other drivers were on the snow tyres.
“Tomorrow will be another really challenging day, but in Monte-Carlo we had very good pace with the Fiesta and I hope it will be the same here. We’re still really close to the lead and we are hungry for a good result – but there is still a long and difficult way to go and many things can happen!”
M Sport Ford WRC Team Principal Richard Millener commented on Friday’s activities saying:
It’s been a fantastic day for Esapekka and great to see the Fiesta back at the top of the timesheets. He’s really excelled in these conditions and his choice to go on the snow tyres was brilliant – so brilliant in fact that everyone else decided to do the same in the next stages! There’s still a long and difficult day to go, but Esapekka definitely deserves a good result here. We know he’ll give it his best, and he’s already given the team the boost we all needed to close the season.
“Teemu also looked on course to deliver a strong rally this weekend and was actually up on the splits before picking up an engine issue through the early stages. All credit to our engineers and technicians who tried everything they could to resolve the issue. But as it worsened, it became clear that it was internal and we were left with no option but to retire.
“There was bad luck for Gus too. After a bit of a cautious start he was getting back on the pace and fourth fastest through the stage before clipping a post and damaging the suspension. Thankfully the lads should be able to get the car fixed in service this evening, and we’ll see him back out on the stages tomorrow.
“And in WRC 2, Adrien was having a brilliant drive – outperforming his rivals stage after stage. He was unfortunate to pick up a puncture this afternoon, but he had such a good morning that he’s still only 6.8 seconds away from the lead and really hungry for that victory! He was strong in Monte at the start of the year, and hopefully we’ll see that again as we head into the mountains tomorrow.