Esapekka Lappi wins Rally Sweden 2024

Rally Sweden 2024 in Umeå undeniably framed how decisive and whimsical a highly dramatic winter rally can be.
When the two previous years' Umeå winners, Kalle Rovanperä and Ott Tänak, respectively, steered out into the snow on Friday, it opened up the possibility for a new winner.

That man was Esapekka Lappi with his co-driver Janne Ferm.

– Fantastic, this fits nicely, he stated.

The Hyundai driver had to celebrate and thus equalize his second WRC victory in his career, where the 33-year-old took advantage of the mistakes of the others and controlled the closing stages stably. The last time he won a WRC event was in 2017, and just under six years later, he made his history by winning Rally Sweden ahead of Elfyn Evans, who was 29.6 seconds behind, and a further 18.3 seconds behind Adrien Fourmaux, finished third.

Pieksämäkisonen was visibly taken as he rolled onto the victory podium at The Red Barn Arena.
– I have been chasing this win for several years. Lappi said I can promise there will be a big celebration.
Memory-loving rally enthusiasts are guaranteed to remember how Ott Tänak drove home last year’s Rally Sweden, even though he only drove home one of the 18 special stages.

In the end, the sport of rallying is theoretically straightforward. It’s about staying on the road, even if, in practice, there are moments when it’s easy to push yourself too hard and end up a little on the wrong side of the border when driving.

When Rally Sweden opened properly on Friday morning, the drivers and all rally fans met a wet and abundant snowfall that increased more and more during the day, and the competition field was hugely challenged.
Kalle Rovanperä, who announced he would drive part-time this WRC season, made his Umeå debut, and it looked promising, to say the least, as he opened by winning the opening two stages and finishing second in the third. But on the fourth, Florida SS4, the windy weather and the snowfall reminded him, and in the poor visibility, he made a simple mistake and destroyed the car’s radiator.

The same fate on the same stretch befell Ott Tänak.

The tension that opened up before Saturday, where there was only 0.9 seconds between Esapekka Lappi and Takamota Katsuta after Vännäs SS9, suddenly became ten minutes later when Katsuta steered up a snow embankment on Sarsjöliden. After that, the competition was about Esapekka Lappi, who took just over a minute and a half to manage and slowed down the pace. Tactical, intelligent, and with risk-minimized driving, Lappi could keep track of the time into the closing Power Stage at The Red Barn Arena.

A few times between the WRC victories indicate how long Lappi has been chasing this triumph.

– I could analyze a million things about my rally career. Still, of course, I want to thank the theme manager for Hyundai, Cyril Abiteboul, who brought me into the team after a terrible second half of last year’s season. It’s a big contrast compared to now, and I have to thank the whole team, said Lappi.

When the favorites failed, the Frenchman and Ford driver Adrien Forumaux also got to step on the podium for the first time in his WRC history as third, and the 29-year-old was, of course, overjoyed.

He has only three stage victories behind him as the main merit in his WRC career, and the second place in Umeå was, of course, also a massive success for the M-sport team, which, as you know, won the competition when Ott Tänak was one of the drivers last year.

Toyota driver Elfyn Evans finished second and now also got to step on top of the podium for the first time since Rally Sweden moved to Umeå in 2022. Evans won two stage victories: Vännäs SS12 and Västervik SS17.