Kalle Rovanpera got off to the ideal start in his pursuit of several victories at the Safari Rally Kenya by easily winning Wednesday morning’s shakedown stage.
World Rally Championship leader Kalle Rovanperä ended up the fastest in a thrilling Safari Rally Kenya shakedown where Takamoto Katsuta crashed and Esapekka Lappi experienced mechanical issues.
The Finn set a time that was a second and a half faster than Ott Tanak’s Puma Rally1 from M-Sport Ford during the brief “Loldia” warm-up while piloting his Toyota Gazoo Racing GR Yaris Rally1.
Rovanpera hit a record time of three minutes, 32.4 seconds during the second of his three runs. He was pleased with how the session had gone for him and expressed optimism about returning to the savannah.
Tanak was quick to note out that round seven of the World Rally Championship won’t be about performance despite Rovanpera taking the lead, stating that the goal will simply be to survive.
Sebastien Ogier, the winner of the 2021 Safari Rally finished seven tenths of a second behind Tanak and little more than two seconds behind his Toyota teammate’s record.
Tanak’s comments were echoed by the Frenchman, who stated that it is “about surviving” while getting the OK to proceed so that come Sunday afternoon one can battle for the victory.
Thierry Neuville of Hyundai Motorsport tackled the shakedown on four attempts, with his best run putting him a tenth ahead of Elfyn Evans’ second-place Toyota in the session’s standings.
Despite rolling his car on the third run, Takamoto Katsuta finished sixth fastest 43 seconds behind Rovanpera’s pace. The GR Yaris Rally1 driven by the Japanese driver appears to have gone down in video footage after hitting a compression, sending the rear to burrow into the soft gravel.
Even after rolling twice, the car came to rest on its wheels and Katsuta was able to start the engine right away before getting back to work with mostly minor damage.
Hyundai Motorsport driver Dani Sordo edged off M-Sport Ford driver Pierre-Louis Loubet for seventh place after clocking a timing of three minutes 37.4 seconds.
Esapekka Lappi’s third-place Hyundai, despite scoring points, abruptly stopped on its tracks halfway through the first run. He was able to get the car back to the remote garage where the mechanics immediately determined that the loud knocking noise was coming from a damaged propshaft.