Citroën Secures Second Consecutive Podium As Lappi-Ferm Finish As Runners-Up
Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm produced a highly impressive performance this weekend to secure their first podium finish for Citroën Total WRT. Fiercely holding off the attacks of their competitive rivals during Sunday’s final leg in their C3 WRC, the Finnish duo ended the rally in second place overall. Meanwhile, recent winners of the Rallye Monte-Carlo, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia used all of their talent and determination to scoop two bonus points on the Power Stage, despite the disappointment of retiring earlier in the rally.
THE STORY OF THE RALLY
It was clear that Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm felt completely at ease during Sunday’s final leg at Rally Sweden this weekend. Much like last year, the Finnish crew remained impressively relaxed throughout the final leg, this time securing an excellent second place with control and authority. This runner-up spot was their first podium finish since joining Citroën and also their best result at this rally in only their third appearance here. This positive result also takes Esapekka Lappi up to fifth place in the championship standings.
After winning in Monte-Carlo, it’s also the second podium finish this season for Citroën Total WRT, following a rally during which the C3 WRC stood out for both its competitiveness (three stage wins) and its exemplary reliability.
Lappi’s highly promising performance on only his second competitive outing in the C3 WRC followed a rally during which he gradually improved his pace. Fifth at the end of day one, despite a spin that left him having to deal with a damaged aerodynamic package, Lappi then upped his pace on Saturday’s leg. He gained three places, taking him into joint second position, before displaying even more convincing form on Sunday.
The Nordic pair started Sunday in joint second with another driver just 2.3 seconds behind, but Lappi landed a telling blow on the first pass on Likenäs (21.19km). On this ultra-fast stage, the 28 year-old driver’s third fastest time put paid to the threat posed by the first of his rivals, whilst adding two tenths to his advantage over the second one. However, he was far from finished. On the second run on the stage, he finished within just six tenths of the stage-winning time to give him a 4.4 second lead over the third-placed driver as he went into the Torsby Power Stage (8.93km). He proceeded to hold onto second overall on the final test and simultaneously grab the final bonus point.
Despite the clear disadvantage of running first on the road, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia made a fine start to the rally, ending day one just outside the podium places in fifth overall and only 14.4 seconds off the pace. However, first to come up against the water-filled ruts left by the historic cars completing the stages between the morning and afternoon loops, the six-time World Champions were unfortunately caught out on SS6. They became stuck in a snow bank and had to retire for the day.
They re-joined on Saturday looking to run in-competition tests and work on the set-up of their C3 WRC. However, they refused to be discouraged and maintained their commitment, managing to claim three stage wins (SS10, SS11 and SS14). The pair then focused on trying to secure a few extra points on the Power Stage, setting the fourth fastest time to come away with two bonus points. Now sitting third in the championship standings, they head for the next round knowing they will have a decent starting position in Mexico.
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver: “Obviously I had hoped for a better result, but I knew it would be difficult to do well when opening the road here. A lot of the crews hit the snow banks, including us. We were also unlucky in that we got stuck in one of the rare spots where there were no spectators. We did our very best on the Power Stage, even though once again the conditions were far from ideal for us. I’m now completely focused on the next rally in Mexico.“
Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver: “I knew that we had worked well during testing and that was confirmed during this rally which I really enjoyed. The conditions were still quite a bit different this weekend so we gradually worked on improving the set-up of our C3 WRC, which helped us to feel increasingly confident in the car and to pick up our pace as we completed more of the stages. I'm delighted with this result; it kick starts our season and bodes extremely well for the rest of the year.”
TWO QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACINGTEAM PRINCIPAL
How would you describe the performance of Esapekka and Janne?
This was a great performance which we knew they were capable of but they still impressed us again with their relaxed, controlled approach, gradually improving their rhythm after their spin on day one. As the stages progressed, they pushed more and more without making any other mistakes. It’s really positive to see them obtain the second best result of their WRC career in only their second rally in the C3 WRC, especially as they’re both so calm and determined, and a huge pleasure to work with.
Sébastien and Julien, on the other hand, were very unlucky…
We knew how tough it would be for them to open the road here, where grip levels on the stages tend to increase as more cars compete. That is exactly how it was working out, although they were doing very well up until they made their minor mistake. They managed to react well, refusing to be discouraged and working with the team on getting to know the C3 WRC. Indeed, their unwavering determination was rewarded on the Power Stage.
Like Esapekka and Janne, they also proved – with three stage wins – that our car, having finished second here last year, is definitely at ease on these stages. It is, however, a tough event to get to grips with, given that we don't race on ice and snow very often at all. We are encouraged by these performances to continue our efforts and to keep the good form going in Mexico, where we can expect the fight at the front to be just as intense as it was here in Sweden.
THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEKEND, BY JANNE FERM
A key player in, and first-hand witness of the improving form of Esapekka Lappi during the weekend, Janne Ferm told us all about Sunday’s sprint finish.
“Throughout the weekend, the atmosphere in the cockpit of our C3 WRC was one of calm, concentration and determination, and this morning (Sunday) was no different. I was convinced that we were capable of finishing second, but I'm also too familiar with the world of rallying to know it’s never over until it’s over. We pushed all the way, tackling each stage in turn without getting ahead of ourselves. Each time we reached the end of the Likenäs stage, even before I had seen the time, I was pleased because I felt that we had given everything and the times reflected that. It’s a test where you have to be fully focused and I knew that Esapekka had been totally committed and pushed to the max.“