Ogier and Lappi lead Rally of Estonia after first stage in six months

Tartu (Estonia) (AFP)


Six-time world champion Sebastien Ogier in a Toyota and M-Sport Ford's Esapekka Lappi led the Rally of Estonia after the first world championship stage held in almost six months on Friday.

Ogier, who led the championship by eight points from teammate Elfyn Evans when the competition was halted in March due to the coronavirus, clocked 1min 17.1sec, the same time as Lappi.

Home hope and reigning world champion Ott Tanak, in a Hyundai, was just a fraction behind after the special stage played out in parkland on the edge of the city.

In all, the Rally of Estonia will consist of 17 stages over 232km on Saturday and Sunday.

"It's good to be back and fighting," said Ogier. "Everything is ready, the car feels good and we've had good preparations, so let's go for it."

Craig Breen was fourth on the day, despite appearing to struggle to get off the startline, with Evans in fifth.

"It's special. It will be a tough few days, the competition will be tight but it's definitely our opportunity so we need to make the best of it," said Tanak, who is fifth in the world championship, 24 points behind Ogier.

As with all sports events, health protocols are in operation with masks and social distancing required.

However, as the event takes place on the open roads, it is not possible to ban fans.

As a result, there are controlled areas with passes allowing access to certain areas while each stage is limited to 1,000 people.