Rovanpera eyes Safari Rally Kenya win after dominating Saturday stages

Rovanpera eyes Safari Rally Kenya win after dominating Saturday stages

Kalle Rovanpera skillfully maneuvered through chaotic Saturday stages to establish a commanding lead in the Safari Rally Kenya after Thierry Neuville suffered a fuel system malfunction.

Reigning world champion Kalle Rovanpera commanded a lead of over two minutes following WRC Safari Rally Kenya Saturday’s 160km loop while trouble befell his rivals including World Rally Championship points leader Thierry Neuville as the challenging African stages took their toll on the drivers.

Rovanpera was among the few who managed to escape mechanical problems or punctures as he finished the day’s six stages 2m08.9s ahead of his Toyota teammate Takamoto Katsuta, with Adrien Fourmaux of M-Sport Ford coming in third.

The three will receive 18-15-13 championship points respectively under the revised classification system for 2024 if they successfully finish the rally tomorrow.

Neuville came to a stop at kilometer 24 in Stage 11, the first after the midday service. The Belgian restarted the race but stalled after only 2.2 kilometers, forcing him to finish the stage in EV mode.

The fuel system was the source of the issue and after a bit of adjusting following an impressive finish, he managed to start the engine, but lost 2 minutes and 38 seconds to the leaders, dropping to fifth place overall.

Toyota’s Elfyn Evans dropped from second place to fifth place after suffering two punctures during the morning loop but Neuville’s mishap promoted the Welshman to fourth place to bag a provisional 10 points.

The championship leader would later drop seven minutes and twelve seconds in the next stage (SS12), as Hyundai’s day of torment worsened when he lost another minute in the last stage.

Rain was predicted for the afternoon, therefore Hyundai decided to fit a snorkel for the first time this weekend as Toyota and M-Sport-Ford were already using their Safari-spec intakes for the entire rally. Evans went on to claim stage 12 victory in spite of a left front puncture, finishing one second clear of Tanak.

Sleeping Warrior 2 saw Lappi stumble at km 13 after striking two large birds and going blind as the feathers of two guinea fowls covered the i20’s bonnet. He lost more than 10 minutes on the stage as a result of his frequent stoppage to allow his rivals to make their way without obstruction.

Evans suffered another puncture with four kilometers remaining in the stage, tearing the left rear bodywork of the Yaris, while Fourmaux suffered a slow puncture that resulted in tyre explosion tearing the rear bodywork of the Puma. The gap between Evans and Fourmaux in fourth place widened from 40 seconds to more than two minutes.

Rovanpera had the luxury to ease things down with a lead of 2 minutes and 17 seconds. However, he claimed he had no hybrid power during the stage, but only fell back 8.6 seconds.

Five different drivers emerged victorious after Saturday’s six stages, following Rovanpera’s Friday six-stage victory. Evans, Rovanpera, and Tanak each took one, leaving Katsuta with two.

In WRC2, Gus Greensmith had the freedom to take it easy with a lead of more than three minutes. However, all the funfare was over as Oliver Solberg surged into second place overall with four stage wins against flu-stricken Greensmith’s two and fought his way back to a lead that was cut to one minute and fifty-five second ranking sixth overall.

The crews will take on six more stages on Sunday to wrap up the 2024 Safari Rally Kenya.

Leave a Reply