Tänak transmission woe gives Lappi lead

A stage win, and a problem for the previous leader, means Toyota's Lappi is now at the front of Rally Italy


Esapekka Lappi has retaken the lead of Rally Italy as Ott Tänak suffered a mechanical gremlin on his Hyundai i20 N Rally1, costing him precious seconds and first place with it.

Though Lappi’s Toyota GR Yaris was the pacesetter on all the splits on Sedini – Castelsardo, it was the final split that made the difference – a section that Tänak’s team-mate Dani Sordo described as “pointless” as “you can only destroy the car”.

Tänak reported a transmission fault kicked in during the rough and bumpy final sector, dropping a crucial 2.7 seconds in the final mile to hand Lappi a 0.7s lead.

“We have some transmission broken at the end of the stage, like three-wheel drive,” Tänak explained. “Not fully but no braking, no acceleration. It was difficult in there.”

Lappi suggested he hadn’t been pushing to retake the lead in a hurry, instead playing the long-term game.

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With Elfyn Evans out and Kalle Rovanperä struggling near the back of the field as first car on the road, Toyota’s points-scoring burden for the manufacturers’ championship now rests primarily on Lappi’s shoulders.

“I’m not really trying to push more,” he said. “I think we have had a sort of smart pace throughout the day and I’m continuing to drive like that. I still have some margin to avoid rocks and this stuff but I believe everyone is doing the same.”

Third place changed hands yet again, as Pierre-Louis Loubet took the final podium spot back off team-mate Craig Breen once more.

Neither driver had the ultimate pace on Sedini – Castelsardo, going only fifth and seventh quickest respectively, but ultimately a half-spin at a downhill hairpin cost Breen the handful of seconds Loubet needed to retake the place.

Worryingly for M-Sport, Hyundai’s Dani Sordo has now fully bridged the gap to the podium battle up ahead and is now only 0.6s off Breen ahead of him, having clocked the second-fastest time behind Lappi.

Adrien Fourmaux is now in a no-man’s land of sorts, 14.7s adrift of Sordo, though simultaneously putting himself far out of reach of the struggling Toyota duo of Takamoto Katsuta and Kalle Rovanperä in seventh and eighth.

Though he’d lost time earlier on Friday with a broken rear wing, this time Rovanperä found himself going slower than the WRC2 leaders for the second stage in a row.

“They are all really challenging being the first car. Let’s see how the times are. On this one I felt that it was a clean run, no mistakes, and I tried my best. That’s all we can do.”

SS7 results

1 Esapekka Lappi/Jenne Ferm (Toyota) 9m54.7s
2 Dani Sordo/Candido Carrera (Hyundai) +3.7s
3 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +6.1s
4 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +6.3s
5 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais (M-Sport Ford) +6.8s
6 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +7.1s
7 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +7.8s
8 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +15.7s
9 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +17.1s
10 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda) +18.3s

Leading positions after SS7

1 Lappi/Ferm (Toyota) 1h10m41.9s
2 Tänak/Järveoja (Hyundai) +0.7s
3 Loubet/Landais (M-Sport Ford) +15.1s
4 Breen/Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +15.5s
5 Sordo/Carrera (Hyundai) +16.1s
6 Fourmaux/Coria (M-Sport Ford) +30.8s
7 Katsuta/Johnston (Toyota) +1m05.5s
8 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +1m13.1s
9 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +2m07.2s
10 Mikkelsen/Eriksen (Škoda) +2m20.8s