Skoda Motorsport’s new young gun, Esapekka Lappi, is ready to tackle one of the most famous rallies in the world, the Monte Carlo Rally, for the very first time – and he’s doing it in a Fabia S2000.
The Finnish ace, who celebrates his 22nd birthday on Day 2 of the event on Thursday (17 January), is set to appear on selected rounds of the WRC-2 this year in a factory Skoda. Lappi, the reigning Finnish Rally Champion, will be co-driven by Janne Ferm.
“We can’t wait to make our first appearance at the Monte,” said Lappi. “It is a tough and difficult rally, but also a great experience for any driver. It is great that we can start the new WRC-2 and our mission in the ŠKODA Motorsport team at this event. It will be a big challenge for us, because everybody wants to succeed at the Monte.”
This year’s Monte Carlo Rally, the opening round of the FIA WRC, contains 18 stages. It’s an asphalt rally, but snow and freezing temperatures are forecast – making the switchback Alpine mountain roads even more demanding.
Monte Carlo is a very special place for Skoda. The 2009 event saw Skoda Motorsport make its rallying debut and start the successful era of the Skoda Fabia Super 2000 project. Over the past four years since then, ŠKODA has won three IRC championship titles in both the Manufacturers and Drivers categories (2010-2012), the Drivers category of the European Championship (2012), both the Manufacturers and Drivers categories of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (2012) and a total of 18 national championships (2009-2012).
The event starts in Valence on Wednesday (16 January), with four special stages in Ardeche, covering more than 130kms: Moulinon – Antraigues and Burzet – St Martial.
On Thursday 17, the three specials in Ardeche and Haute Loire will be driven twice, with a halfway stop in Valence at around 12.45 (130kms).
Friday 18 will comprise of three specials, with a long St Jean en Royans – La Cime du Mas stage (33kms) in Vercors. Then, after a stop in the Valence service park, there are two classic Monte Carlo Rally stages on the way back down to Monaco, which haven’t been run for many years: St Nazaire le Desert – La Motte Chalancon (22kms) and Sisteron – Thoard (37kms). Cars are allowed to arrive at the Monaco time control earlier than the 19.30 target time.
On Saturday 19, five stages are scheduled for the 60 highest-ranked teams, with three Col-de-Turini runs (Le Moulinet – La Bollene – 23kms), two of which are at night, and two passes through Col St Roch (Lantosque – Luceram – 19kms), one of which is at night. The latter is classed as a Power Stage, and awards bonus points to the three top finishers.
In all, 465km of timed stages will need to be driven to reach the final podium in the Place du Palais, Monaco, at 11h00 on Sunday 20 January.