WRC Rally GB: Toyota’s Lappi takes early lead on Thursday night

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Toyota World Rally Championship driver Esapekka Lappi established an early lead on Rally GB after setting the fastest time on the Tir Prince superspecial.

The Finn heads compatriot and team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala by just 0.3 seconds following the 1.7-mile opening stage.

Championship leader Thierry Neuville matched Latvala’s time in his Hyundai, leaving the Belgian well-poised for an assault on the lead heading into Friday’s opening loop of stages.

Neuville’s main title rivals Sebastien Ogier and Ott Tanak will start Friday fourth and fifth respectively.

Four-time Rally GB winner Ogier lies just 0.4s behind Neuville, with Tanak – who suffered a crash in shakedown earlier in the day – a further 0.2s back ahead of the first leg proper.

Neuville’s Hyundai team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen ended the evening with the sixth-fastest time, ending up 1.7s slower than Lappi.

Behind Mikkelsen was the third Hyundai of Hayden Paddon, the Kiwi setting the seventh-quickest time ahead of the impressive WRC2 runner Kalle Rovanpera in his Skoda Fabia R5.

Rovanpera set exactly the same time as shakedown pacesetter Teemu Suninen (M-Sport Ford Fiesta), while Craig Breen was the best of the Citroens in 10th.

His team-mate Mads Ostberg currently lies 12th, behind WRC2 title contender Pontus Tidemand.

It was a disappointing opening stage for 2017 Rally GB winner Elfyn Evans. The M-Sport driver tied with Ostberg and lie three seconds shy of Lappi.

Classification after SS1

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 1m21.6s
2 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 0.3s
2 Jari-Matti Latvala, M.Anttila Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 0.3s
4 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 0.7s
5 Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 0.9s
6 Andreas Mikkelsen, A.Jager Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 1.7s
7 Hayden Paddon, S.Marshall Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 1.9s
8 Teemu Suninen, M.Markkula M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 2.2s
9 Craig Breen, S.Martin Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen 2.5s
10 Mads Ostberg, T.Eriksen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen 3.0s

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