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Safari Rally Kenya: Kalle Rovanperä dominates ahead to Katsuta and Fourmaux

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Hyundai’s revenge on third leg, but Toyota confirms Yaris as most reliable Rally1 car. WRC2 triumph for Gus Greensmith, second place for Oliver Solberg. Tough race, all drivers suffered from problems except the reigning champion. Neuville rules in generale standings thanks to sunday and power stage points

Kalle Ronvapera wins Safari Rally Kenya after three days domination on his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1. The two times world champion ends the only african race of 2024 WRC calendar managing a big gap on his team mate Takamoto Katsuta, very strong ad able to keeps himself out of lot of traps on rough kenyan special stages. Toyota Gazoo Racing claims first 2024 success thanks to his part-time champion.

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Strong performance for Katsuta

Another concrete performance from Ford M-Sport driver Adrien Fourmaux. The frenchman gains second podium in a row after third place at Rally Sweden in totally different conditions. Elfyn Evans completes a very positive weekend for Toyota and closes on 4th position, just ahead to Thierry Neuville, very fast but also very unlucky in Kenya. The belgian scores five important points winning the power stage but Hyundai returns from Africa with a lot of questions. Germany-based korean team appeared so strong on all six sunday stages but still have to work a lot on i20 Hybrid Rally1 reliability to support Tanak and Neuville in their championship battle.

Despite this problems and thanks to sunday leg performance and power stage poitns, Neuville is the leader in general standings. 67 points for the belgian, followed by Evans at 61 and Fourmaux at 46. In manufacturer ranking Toyota Gazoo Racing climbs to first position at 131 points, Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT is close at 127 and M-Sport Ford WRT third at 72.

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Second podium in a row for Fourmaux

Nothing changed in WRC2 ranking and Gus Greensmith takes a precious win on dirty Safari stages behind the wheel of Skoda Fabia RS, followed by other czech car driven by Oliver Solberg. Good third place despite some problems for Kajetanowicz that completes an usual triple for Skoda. First Ford Fiesta, driven by local Carl Tundo finishes in seventh position.

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Safari Rally Kenya final classification

Saturday: Rovanpera dominates

The third day of the Safari Rally Kenya has been marked by numerous technical glitches and punctures affecting most of the Rally1 competitors. At the top of the leaderboard, we find Kalle Rovanperä, driving the Toyota Yaris Rally1. Despite an issue with the hybrid system of his car, the young Finnish driver managed to maintain his lead over his competitors and put a significant claim on the final rally victory.

“We have a good margin of lead so we drove cautiously. It’s not as enjoyable when you have a wide lead and have to avoid every rock on this course. Additionally, we didn’t even have the hybrid system. Tomorrow looks to be a tough day.”

In second place is Takamoto Katsuta, the Japanese driver from Toyota, who after a puncture in the first round of stages, won the second pass on Soysambu and secured the second fastest time on the long Sleeping Warrior stage, almost 38 kilometers long. Behind him in third place is Adrien Fourmaux, a Frenchman competing with the M-Sport team’s Ford Puma Rally1, who drove cautiously to avoid punctures and errors, almost achieving the goal, except for a puncture in the final part of the stage, fortunately without damage to the car.

Elfyn Evans finished fourth, slowed down by a double puncture, while Thierry Neuville had a string of technical issues with his Hyundai i20 Rally1 that effectively limited his performance.

The top 10 is completed by Gus Greensmith, Oliver Solberg, and Kajetan Kajetanowicz, who also occupy the top three positions among the WRC2 cars, while Jourdan Serderidis and Ott Tänak finished ninth and tenth respectively with Rally1 cars, with the Estonian driver slowed down by mechanical problems with his Hyundai i20 Rally1.

Saturday morning: Rovanpera still leads

Kalle Rovanpera still leads Safari Rally Kenya after stage 10. He’s the only driver that averted the continuous traps typical of the toughest race of WRC calendar. The young finnish keep first place 1 minute and 27 seconds ahead of Thierry Neuville, while Katsuta keeps third position despite a puncture. Three positions lost for Evans after a puncture and Fourmaux climbs to fourth place on ford Puma. After service park crews will face the same loop on three special stages.
Greensmith keeps the lead in WRC2 on Skoda, just ahead the other czech car driven by Oliver Solberg.

Katsuta opens second leg winning stage 8, just 8 tenth ahed of Lappi and 5.2 on Rovanpera. Problems for Evans: the welsh had a puncture and lost a lot of time. Problems also for Munster’s Ford Puma, broken suspension on stage 9 stopped Luxembourg driver and general conditions are not well received from crews. Some changes on the road were not communicated after recce and many drivers found obstacles like rocks. Stage 10, Sleeping Warrior, has been a sort of muddy hell for all crews, like Thierry Neuville said just after the end: “That’s a hell of a stage. I had a clean run through, but the muddy places at the beginning were really crazy. Just before the finish line we drove over a stone and we bent something.”

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Broken suspension for Munster

Ronvapera dominates after leg 1

Toyota’s reigning champion Kalle Rovanpera is the leader at Safari Rally Kenya after stage 7. At the end of the first day the finnish driver leads on team mate Evans with 56.9 seconds gap and 1 minute on other Toyota driver Takamoto Katsuta. Neuville suffered from a puncture in the morning and followa Toyota trio in fourth position on his Hyundai, while Adrien Fourmaux climbs to fifth on Ford Puma. Sixth place for the other Ford driver Munster; he precedes the WRC2 leader Gus Greensmith on Skoda.

Not a good day for Hyundai Motorsport. Esapekka Lappi has been stopped on SS 5 by a transmission problem and both Neuville and Tanak were caught out by surprises on stages. Only the belgian finished the leg, Tanak retired after hitting a rock and damaged steering.

“I have to be happy with that! The conditions are very rough, it’s going deeper with every car. I would have loved to go even faster.” Said Kalle Rovanpera after second friday loop. Saturday program will replicate two loops of three stages each and Safari Rally Kenyais only at its beginning. More challenges will come for WRC crews and everything can happens in toughest race of season.

Friday morning: Rovanpera sets his pace

Kalle Rovanpera takes the lead at Safari Rally Kenya after stage 4. The two-times world champion put his Gr Yaris 15.5 seconds in front of Lappi’s Hyundai, with Tanak looking them from third place on 16.8 seconds gap. Fourth place for Katsuta on Toyota, followed by team mate Evans and Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai.

Very difficult start for the Belgian. He suffered from a puncture that damaged also other parts on rear right side of his Hyundai on stage 3. He and his co-cdriver Martin Wydaeghe fixed some detached body parts and changed the tyre before running stage 4 wearing goggles and masks to avoid possible dust issues in the car.

Three Ford Pumas are in 7th, 8th position with Adrien Fourmaux leading the team in front of Gregoire Munster. They are followed by WRC2 ranking leader, Gus Greesmith on Skoda.
Mechanical issues for Kajetanowicz, while Oliver Solberg stopped during stage 4 to change a flat tyre and lost more than one minute. Petter’s son was quite disappointed after the stage: “What the hell can you do? Crazy high pressures. You take it easy in the rocky section and you still get a slow puncture. Without WRC tyres it’s no fun. From now on it’s flat out.”

Super special stage: best time for Neuville

After Monte-Carlo tarmac and Sweden frozen roads, it’s now time to return on gravel for WRC crews. Safari Rally Kenya officially started this morning and Thierry Neuville sets best scratch time on Kasarani Super Special Stage. The belgian on Hyundai stops the clock on 3’19″9, only one tenth of a second faster than his team mate Ott Tanak. Good start for Kalle Rovanpera as well; Toyota’s reigning champion is third on time sheet after fisrt 4.84 kilometers around Nairobi. Fouth place for Takamoto Katsuta on Toyota, followed by Lappi on Hyundai and Evans on Toyota. Fourmaux’s Puma is first Ford at seventh place chased by the other M-Sport car driven by Gregoire Munster. Oliver Solberg confirmed himself the fastest in WRC2 on Skoda, just 0.3 seconds better than othe Skoda’s driver Kajetanowicz.

“It’s going to be a challenging event. Fingers crossed we get through without any problems. I feel good in the car, but there’s a long way to go” said Neuville after stage one.

Safari Rally Kenya will restart tomorrow at 6:15 CET and first leg includes six special stages.

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Shakedown: Rovanpera fastest

The african weekend of World Rally Championship opens with reigning champion’s best time on Toyota. Neuville and Lappi close to the leader. Greek driver Vasilakis on Ford Fiesta at the top of WRC2

Kalle Rovanperä was the fastest in the Safari Rally Kenya shakedown, the third race of the 2024 WRC. The Finnish driver, piloting the Toyota GR Yaris Rally1, completed the two passes with a best time of 3 minutes and 32.1 seconds, just two tenths faster than Thierry Neuville in the Hyundai. In third place was another Hyundai, driven by Esapekka Lappi, followed by teammate Ott Tänak in the Hyundai, who was ahead of Elfyn Evans in the Toyota. The first Ford Puma, driven by Adrien Fourmaux, secured the sixth position.

The third Toyota, driven by Takamoto Katsuta, took seventh place, followed by Grégoire Munster in the Ford. In a somewhat surprising turn of events, the WRC2 category saw the Ford Fiesta of Greek driver Georgios Vasilakis set the fastest time, with Gus Greensmith in second place and Oliver Solberg chasing closely in the Škoda Fabia.

The Safari Rally Kenya will kick off tomorrow at 2:05 PM (12:05 CET) with the Kasrani Super Special Stage, covering a distance of 4.84 kilometers. The rally will continue with stages on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, each day featuring six special stages. The final challenge will be the Hell’s Gate Power Stage, spanning 10.53 kilometers, concluding the race at 2:15 PM on Sunday (12:15 CET)