Rovanpera cuts into Ogier’s lead after dominating on Saturday

Rovanpera cuts into Ogier's lead after dominating on Saturday

World rally champion Kalle Rovanpera has cut nearly half the gap behind Safari Rally Kenya leader Sebastien Ogier after stepping up when heavy downpours wreaked chaos on Saturday afternoon.

Kalle Rovanperä is keeping Toyota teammate Sébastien Ogier from taking the Safari Rally Kenya by storm after dominating at the halfway point on Saturday.

This comes after Ogier established a sizable lead throughout the course of Friday which he dutifully began to defend on Saturday.

However, after suffering a slow puncture toward the conclusion of the opening stage, the eight-time world champion who was headed for his second Safari victory and third victory in the current World Rally Championship season, managed to increase his advantage on the morning’s first stage.

The Elmenteita stage was claimed by Rovanperä, however he only edged off his teammate by six tenths barely making a dent in the lead. But with another stage win, he reduced Ogier’s lead on Sleeping Warrior by a significant margin, thrashing him by 7.7 seconds to fall behind by 22.1s.

Rovanpera was able to reduce Ogier’s advantage to 16.7 seconds before Sunday’s last six stages thanks to heavy rain that fell during the day’s penultimate stage.

Toyota’s Elfyn Evans finished the day in third place 2m23.3s behind Rovanpera after overcoming teammate Takamoto Katsuta in stage 13’s challenging rainy conditions. Hyundai’s send was led by Dani Sordo, who finished sixth (+3m52.3s), after teammate Esapekka Lappi had to retire due to a mechanical problem on stage 11.

Ott Tanak and Pierre-Louis Loubet of M-Sport were able to hang on to sixth and seventh place overall, respectively, while Thierry Neuville moved up to ninth after retiring on Friday behind WRC2 leader Kajetan Kajetanowicz.

The 29.32km Soysambu test which was held in more dry conditions than the morning pass, was the first stage of the afternoon, and it appeared like Ogier had put an end to Rovanpera’s Saturday morning surge by dominating later on.

Despite the fact that Ogier’s run was marred by greenery sticking out of his GR Yaris as he approached the stage’s finale, the Frenchman still finished 6.4 seconds faster than Rovanpera.

Given that his title rivals Tanak and Neuville were in positions sixth and fourteenth respectively, Rovanpera acknowledged that he wasn’t putting much effort in the stage with the goal of bringing the car to the finish line.

However, Lappi’s retirement due to a problem caused by a prop shaft was the main stage drama. This comes after the Finn encountered a related issue in Wednesday’s shakedown.

Evans finished third overall as a result of Lappi’s struggles, although the Welshman was only 2.8 seconds ahead of Katsuta who was hot on his heels. Tanak secured sixth place but dropped 1m30s as a result of his second wheel change of the event.

Ogier extended his dominance over the rally by beating Rovanpera by 3.5 seconds on stage 12, Elmenteita.

Rovanpera was content to simply cling onto second place overall, while Katsuta was able to edge out Evans by 2.1 seconds to claim third place overall.

Rovanpera was content to only hang onto second place overall, but Katsuta was able to overtake Evans for third place with a 2.1-second cushion due to his first stage victory of the event.

As the penultimate test of the day (Sleeping Warrior, 31.04km) came to a close, the much-awaited rain finally started to fall. Crews struggled for grip as they skated around on rough, muddy roadways creating extremely risky conditions.

Rovanpera used his well-known wet weather driving skills to shave 15.3 seconds off of Ogier’s lead as the muddy road condition worked in his favor.Tanak, Loubet, Neuville, and Katsuta all experienced spins as they struggled for control; during one of his crazy moments, Katsuta damaged his rear wing.

Ogier faced difficulties throughout the stage, suffering a wild slip in the early stages before suffering punctures in both front tyres near the finish.

The group of four made it to the end of the stage without incident, although Katsuta lost command of third place overall.

In WRC2, Kajetan Kajetanowicz has triumphed over Grégoire Munster for the lead. For safety reasons, the Sleeping Warrior stage was briefly interrupted for every car other than Ogier. However, the race immediately resumed and Munster overtook his adversary to take the lead by 7.2 seconds.

The rally will conclude following six more stages on Sunday.

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