ERC leader Lappi looking forward to quick gravel roads “like in Finland”.
Next stop: Estonia. There is no time for ŠKODA to take a breather this week. The Czech car manufacturer follows its successful home race, the Rally Bohemia, with its next outing from 17 to 19 June – this time in the FIA European Rally Championship (ERC). “Extremely quick gravel routes and massive jumps – it is almost like being at home,” said Esapekka Lappi, describing the Rally Estonia. The high-speed specialist in ŠKODA Motorsport colours leads the biggest continental rally championship as the teams head to the seventh round of the season, which takes place in the region around Estonia’s second largest city, Tartu.
The Rally Estonia is a new addition to the ERC calendar. As such, it is the greatest unknown factor in this summer of rallying. 231.55 high-speed kilometres, the majority on bumpy gravel roads, await the 63 competitors. As well as Lappi, who lines up alongside co-driver Janne Ferm (FIN) in the Fabia Super 2000, the ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland duo will also be in action in the second works-assisted car: Sepp Wiegand/Frank Christian (D/D) arrive in Estonia as one of the closest rivals of their fellow ŠKODA duo from Finland. Wiegand, who finished third at ŠKODA’s home rally last weekend, is 33 points behind Lappi in the ERC standings – level on points with second-placed Craig Breen (IRL).
“I really want to get a good result and pick up plenty of points towards the championship. However, the importance of experience cannot be underestimated at these high-class ERC rallies. We saw that with Freddy Loix’ victory in Belgium recently. In Estonia, all eyes will be on the local heroes, like Ott Tänak,” said Lappi. “At first I will have to get used to the quick gravel roads again, as I was driving on tarmac at the Rally Bohemia last weekend. However, gravel is my absolute favourite surface. That is what I grew up on as a rally driver,” said Lappi.
Lappi’s home may only be separated from Estonia by the Gulf of Finland, but the largest rally event in the Baltics is new territory for him – just as it is for the entire ŠKODA Motorsport team and top German rally driver Sepp Wiegand. “I have heard it is like Finland, but I’ve never driven there either,” said Wiegand. “Estonia will once again be a big challenge for us, but I will do my best – as always. The recent ERC podiums in Northern Ireland and Belgium show that I am getting into my stride.” The 23-year-old impressed at the Circuit of Ireland Rally, where he finished runner-up behind Lappi, and on his first appearance in Belgium, where he came home third.
With three wins from five starts, ŠKODA has enjoyed a successful 2014 ERC season so far. Freddy Loix (B) recently won his home rally in West Flanders at the wheel of a Fabia Super 2000, after Lappi had previously won the rallies in Latvia and Northern Ireland.
When ŠKODA started its home event – the Rally Bohemia – around the Czech automobile manufacturer’s headquarters in Mladá Boleslav last weekend, it also celebrated the 40th birthday of its sporty RS models. As a homage to the successful history of the RS, Sepp Wiegand and ŠKODA works driver Jan Kopecký (CZ), who won the rally, lined up in two Fabia Super 2000s sporting a red and white retro look. Lappi also tested the turbo engine for the new Fabia R 5 outside of the actual competition. The R5 class is the successor to the current Super 2000 class. The new R5 rally car is equipped with a 1.6-litre turbo engine, in accordance with FIA regulations.