Finn Lappi wins Rally of Queensland
- 14th July 2013, 9:41pm
The 22-year-old Finnish Rally Champion and co-driver Janne Ferm cruised home after 20 stages of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship third round with a margin of almost 18.5 minutes over the Australian Ford crew of Adrian Coppin and Tim Batten.
Victory boosted Lappi back into the drivers championship lead and strengthened Skoda's bid for the Manufacturers Championship, following a costly non-finish in the previous round in New Caledonia.
His Indian-owned MRF Team had been on course for a 1-2 result – replicating round one in New Zealand – until Gaurav Gill's Skoda broke its suspension on the third stage of the day and had to be retired.
Gill had won the first two stages, but with a deficit of almost two minutes was not intending to do more than close the gap – Lappi had joked he would allow Gill to catch up only by 1 min 59 sec.
Lappi's discomfort on gravel forestry roads made slippery by overnight rain perhaps explained why Gill was able to win this morning.
"The first two stages were very, very slippery. It was really difficult, but we didn't have to push and just stayed in the middle of the road," Lappi said.
"After Gaurav retired we just toured around slowly and carefully. It was very important to have a victory here and get maximum points.
"It's nicer to win after a tough fight, but a win is a win and it's always nice."
Gill said he enjoyed his fight with Lappi, but could not continue it after his car's right-rear shock absorber collapsed on a fourth-gear straight and left the wheel dragging on the ground with two stages still to run before it could be repaired.
Australians benefited from the misfortunes of Gill and Japan's Atsushi Masumura (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo).
Coppin scored a totally unexpected second place with his Fiesta R2 after Masamura lost more than four minutes with a puncture on the final stage, the day's longest at 28.57 kms.
Husband and wife crew Simon and Margot Knowles also surged past Masumura into third and, with Gill out, in addition clinched the APRC Pacific Cup run across the first three rounds.
Coppin's second place justified his decision to compete in an international-class R2 Ford Fiesta in order to get experience against overseas rivals.
"I just came here for the experience and to get a clean result. I never thought I'd get to second outright in an international event," the Canberra landscaper said.
Coppin's next outing will be in the WRC3 class at the World Rally Championship Coates Hire Rally Australia on 12-15 September, when his Innate Motorsport team will be joined by Australian International Molly Taylor in an identical car.
New Zealander Michael Young was the only other retirement in the APRC, rolling his Japanese-backed Toyota Vitz out of sixth place on the fifth of today's eight stages.
In the Australian Rally Championship round, Eli Evans recorded his 10th win from 10 starts in his Italian-built Honda Jazz, tightening his grip on a maiden Australian championship trophy to go alongside the four won by his elder brother Simon.
Neal Bates took yet another win in his 1980 WRC-replica Toyota Celica, but this time with 18-year-old son Harry in the co-driver's seat for the first time instead his crewmate of more than 20 years, Coral Taylor.
Amid some impressive world-class competition, the rally was marred by a crash on today's second stage that took the life of a co-driver and seriously injured his driver. Both were competing in the Queensland Rally Championship, but their names have not been released.
It was the first fatality in the Queensland event's 45-year history.
APRC results (Provisional)
1 LAPPI (Finland)/FERM (Finland) Skoda Fabia 02:08:43.8 Total time
2 COPPIN (Aust.)/BATTEN (Aust.) Ford Fiesta R2 +18:27.5
3 KNOWLES (Aust.)/KNOWLES (Aust.) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +20:14.6
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