(Reuters) – Belgian Thierry Neuville took over the world rally championship lead for Hyundai on Sunday while Toyota’s Finnish rookie Esapekka Lappi took his first win on home soil.
The 26-year-old Toyota driver beat Britain’s Elfyn Evans, in an MSport Ford, by 36 seconds in only his fourth world championship start and despite damaging his rear-left wheel in the penultimate stage.
Finland’s Juho Hanninen was third, a mere 0.3 behind, in another Toyota.
Neuville finished sixth but ousted previous leader Sebastien Ogier, who crashed on Friday and was unable to restart after co-driver Julien Ingrassia suffered concussion and was signed off from competing for 15 days.
With three additional points from the power stage, the Belgian is now level with four times champion Ogier on 160 points but ahead 3-2 on race wins.
“We set out to score more than Ogier this weekend, and we were able to achieve that. We had a very difficult weekend so to salvage some points is crucial,” said Neuville.
“The Power Stage was a key moment… this levels the playing field with four events left of the season, so it has been an important result.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)