Esapekka Lappi has swooped directly into the lead of Rally Italy on Friday’s second stage, as erstwhile leader and Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans suffered a reliability drama.
Evans had taken the lead with a stage win on Friday’s opening test, Terranova, but in trouble at the midway point of Monti di Ala e Budduso.
Over five seconds were lost at the third split, as co-driver Scott Martin began monitoring pressures – though whether this was related to turbo, oil or another system remains unclear.
Come the finish line Evans’ car stalled, with the GR Yaris then pulling away in electric-only mode into the road section.
That left Lappi to come to the fore and pick up the baton as best Toyota, winning the stage by 3.4 seconds from M-Sport’s Craig Breen.
But Monti di Ala e Budduso almost went awry for Lappi too after contact with a rock.
“I hit a loose rock on the front left five kilometers before the finish and I started to hear huge mechanical noise, so I thought it was a puncture,” said Lappi.
“It seems it’s only the rim that’s really bent probably. It was distracting quite a bit but time still seems to be OK.”
Ott Tänak remains second, losing out to Lappi but picking up a place from the ailing Evans, who drops to third place. Lappi, Tänak and Evans are covered by only three seconds.
Breen’s rapid time promoted him to fourth overall, 1.6s up on team-mate Pierre-Louis Loubet who’d suffered an overshoot after braking too late for a hairpin.
With the dust issues from Terranova not repeating on the second Friday stage – far fewer trees by the roadside meant dust cleared more effectively – Kalle Rovanperä suffered greater time loss as first car on the road.
Rovanperä could only muster the eighth-fastest time and fell to sixth overall, now 12.5s adrift of the rally lead and with Adrien Fourmaux only 0.1s behind.
Thierry Neuville holds eighth ahead of Dani Sordo and Takamoto Katsuta.
Gus Greensmith’s hopes of a podium already appear to be over, as he encountered a technical problem after a half-spin into some foliage and dropped almost two minutes.
“I had a half spin but then the car wouldn’t start for what seemed like a minute, minute and a half,” explained Greensmith.
“The engine would start and as soon as I released the clutch it would die. It is what it is.”
1 Esapekka Lappi/Jenne Ferm (Toyota) 15m06.4s
2 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +3.4s
3 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +5.3s
4 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +9.4s
5 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +11.1s
6 Dani Sordo/Candido Carrera (Hyundai) +11.3s
7 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +12.2s
8 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +12.7s
9 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais (M-Sport Ford) +13.1s
10 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +21.8s
Leading positions after SS3
1 Lappi/Ferm (Toyota) 27m04.7s
2 Tänak/Järveoja (Hyundai) +1.9s
3 Evans/Martin (Toyota) +3.0s
4 Breen/Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +8.4s
5 Loubet/Landais (M-Sport Ford) +10.0s
6 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) +12.5s
7 Fourmaux/Coria (M-Sport Ford) +12.6s
8 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +18.7s
9 Sordo/Carrera (Hyundai) +23.5s
10 Katsuta/Johnston (Toyota) +28.6s