First outing of ŠKODA FABIA R5 in Finland
The first appearance by a FABIA R5 was back in 2015, with two ŠKODA Motorsport crews competing. Finnish drivers have a stunning track record at their home rally, having secured overall victory on no fewer than 54 of its 66 editions so far. And so it proved in the WRC2 standings two years ago too as Finn Esapekka Lappi and his co-driver Janne Ferm steered the FABIA R5 to victory.
Lappi came into the rally as favourite having won the previous round in Poland. And he put in a dominant performance after taking the lead on Friday morning and building a comfortable lead thanks to a total of seven stage wins on the opening day. He then managed the lead through the latter part of what was an epic, 20-stage rally covering some 320 kilometres of competitive distance.
In the end, his margin of victory was 1 minute and 41 seconds over his ŠKODA Motorsport teammates, Pontus Tidemand / Emil Axelsson. Their position as runners up was equally comfortable, with the next car finishing more than 3 minutes behind them.
2015 Rally Finland
It was Lappi who took the win for the ŠKODA Motorsport again, leading home his fellow Finn, Teemu Suninen, who was driving a FABIA R5 for Team Oreca and finished in second place. Suninen was arguably favourite ahead of this rally after winning the previous two rounds in Italy and Poland. But once again, Lappi dominated the rally and ended up leading from start to finish to clinch what was his first victory of the year.
The Rally followed a similar pattern to the 2015 edition, with Lappi dominating the opening leg. He won all but two of the eleven special stages which took place on the Friday before again measuring his pace to retain the gap to those behind him. Pontus Tidemand was once again in the mix as he and Suninen battled hard for second place. Going into the final stage, there were just 3.8 seconds between them, but an accident at the start of the stage saw Tidemand forced to retire and Suninen clinch second by what appeared to be a comfortable margin of 1 minute and 20 seconds.
At the end of the season, that would be their positions in the overall standings too, as Lappi claimed the WRC2 title ahead of Suninen in second place.
Both will be back this year, but this time competing in top category World Rally Cars. Meanwhile, in the WRC2 class, while there is no ŠKODA Motorsport representation this year, there will be no fewer than six customer teams who will be looking to help the FABIA R5 win its third successive Rally Finland as well as keep the car’s remarkable 100% record in the 2017 WRC2 championship going.