Citroën’s flying Finns grab second place in Finland

"I literally felt like I could do what I liked in it!"

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By Olivier Ferret

4 August 2019 - 18:01
Citroën's flying Finns grab second (...)

Runners-up at their home round after a high quality performance in their C3 WRC, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm consolidated their pedigree as “Flying Finns”, the local crews who each year add another page to the history of this legendary event! Their performance, Citroën Total World Rally Team’s eighth podium of the season, was supplemented by a fine fifth place for Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia who, in spite of the French driver having suffered physically yesterday, were determined to hang in there and claim precious points for the championship.

With the final leg starting with the stage on which they went off last year, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm knew that a tough job lay ahead of them today. Their off in 2018 also meant that they had no experience of driving the second stage of the loop at full speed. Totally in control of proceedings throughout the weekend in the C3 WRC, the Finns nonetheless had to show great steel today. After limiting the time lost on the first runs, whilst also confirming their pace notes, they then moved clear of the third-placed crew on the second pass. They went on to equal their best result so far with the Red Army (runners-up in Sweden) and secured a richly deserved podium at their home round, just rewards for their undeniable improvement!

This second podium of the season for the Lappi-Ferm crew, the sixth of their short WRC career, is also the eighth in nine rounds this season for the Citroën Total World Rally Team.

Esapekka and Janne showed their intentions right from the word go, setting the second fastest time – just a tenth down on the lead time – on the first proper stage (19.34km). They then confirmed their promising start as they made it to the end of the opening leg in third position, just 2.4s off the pace. Full of confidence in the C3 WRC on these roads that leave no room for hesitation, they went even better on Saturday’s leg. Two more stage wins (SS16 & SS18) amidst the four-way battle for the lead took them up to second place, with handy lead of 12.4s over the third-placed crew. An advantage that they managed masterfully on today’s short final leg, like a couple of seasoned campaigners!

Second on the road on Friday and therefore obliged to sweep the fine layer of loose gravel off the roads, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia managed to limit the time lost, ending day in seventh position, just 12.9s off the podium. Unfortunately, Sébastien then suffered a disrupted night’s sleep after falling ill and was forced to reset his sights for Saturday’s leg. He nonetheless showed great persistence and determination to fight against the exhaustion he felt and move up to fifth overall, within striking distance of fourth place. Having enjoyed a better night’s sleep, he went back on the offensive on Sunday with the same tenacity, but missed out on fourth place by just 2.7s. The points scored at this rally, including two bonus points earned in the Power Stage thanks to setting the fourth fastest time, mean he still lies second in the drivers’ championship and in contention for a seventh consecutive world title.

Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver

“It was a tough weekend for us. To be honest, I had higher expectations at the start. As always, I gave it absolutely everything. For sure, Saturday’s leg – when I was really low on energy – didn’t help matters, but even today, when I felt better, unfortunately I wasn’t able to do more.”

Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver

“I’m very pleased for the team – they deserve this result for having been patient and supportive during the first part of the season, when things were difficult. We worked really hard – and well – together so that the C3 WRC suited my driving style more effectively, especially on the front diffs and I really felt full of confidence driving the car this weekend. I literally felt like I could do what I liked in it! From the first run in the shakedown, I knew that things were looking good. I now hope to keep up this level of performance for the rest of the season.”

TWO QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL

What can you say about Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm’s performance this weekend?

Obviously, we are delighted to see them back near the top after an up-and-down first half of the season, when they struggled to turn their undeniable potential into results.We knew that they were extremely fast and we never doubted their ability to get back to where they belong. They just needed a bit of time to adjust to the car and get the most out of it. We have also tried to support them in managing this situation as best we could, and the relaxed attitude we’ve seen in them this weekend makes me think that the hard work done is beginning to pay dividends. It’s richly deserved for the commitment and trust they have placed in the team, day in, day out. But it’s also satisfying for everyone in the team, who continue to work relentlessly, without counting the hours... I have high hopes that they can keep up the momentum at the next few rounds.

Once again showing their incredible fighting spirit, Sébastien and Julien leave Finland with precious points in the battle for the drivers’ and co-drivers’ title…

Yes, even though they were definitely hoping for a better outcome, and so were we. But they didn’t have an easy job in second position in the running order here, where there is a lot of loose gravel on the roads. And the very disrupted night between Friday and Saturday really knocked the stuffing out of Sébastien, just when he intended to try and make up lost ground. Despite all of this, they once again showed their legendary grit and tenacity, limiting the damage and remaining in with a very good chance of winning the championship. Sometimes, championships are won by making it to the end of difficult weekends like this one without suffering too much damage. In any case, we’ll be redoubling our efforts to ensure our crews have an even more competitive C3 WRC at the forthcoming rounds.

THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEKEND

Christophe Witschi, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm’s race engineer, witnessed first-hand the race craft and assurance with which the Finns built their podium finish, particularly on Sunday morning when they put paid to Jari-Matti Latvala’s hopes of snatching second. He recalls the experience…

“Esapekka was very relaxed this morning and very clear about how he intended to manage his 12.4s lead today. He clearly said that on the first run on the first stage, he was going to ease off slightly on the corner where he went off last year, in order to avoid making the same mistake and that’s obviously what he did. The second stage of the loop was changed a bit last year so his off in 2018 was quite a disadvantage, as he had not driven it at full racing speed. Latvala, on the other hand, has driven this stage many times before, given that it has been used previously as the shakedown stage. But once again, Esapekka and Janne managed to deal with this handicap perfectly, before reminding their fellow countryman that he wasn’t going to catch them on the repeat of Laukaa! It was undoubtedly at least as impressive as their performance on Saturday afternoon when they moved ahead of Latvala.”

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