Rovanpera closes in on Ogier's Safari Rally lead amidst challenging conditions

© Toyota Gazoo Rally Team/Ogier

MOTORSPORTS Rovanpera closes in on Ogier's Safari Rally lead amidst challenging conditions

Festus Chuma 11:55 - 24.06.2023

Ogier remains cautious while Rovanpera pushes forward in an eventful Saturday morning.

The WRC Safari Rally took an exciting turn on Saturday morning as Kalle Rovanpera of Toyota Gazoo Racing narrowed the gap on his counterpart Sébastien Ogier's lead, despite treacherous conditions caused by overnight rain.

The eight-time world champion, Ogier, showcased his skill and determination, managing to hold onto his lead, albeit conceding a few precious seconds.

The special stages near Lake Elmenteita proved to be an arduous test, with sections transformed into muddy battlegrounds. 

However, Ogier maneuvered through the challenging terrain, displaying his mastery of the rally course. Although he encountered tire damage along the way, the French driver skillfully mitigated the setback and held onto his position.

At the end of the morning's stage, Ogier found himself 22.1 seconds ahead of his Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate, Rovanpea. 

The first stage of the day, Soysambu 1, witnessed Ogier's triumph, showcasing his unwavering determination, but Rovanperä swiftly retaliated by winning the next two stages, Elementaita 1 and Sleeping Warrior 1, demonstrating his increasing prowess and desire to close the gap.

In a social post after the first three stages of the day, Rovanperä acknowledged the importance of balancing aggression with prudence, particularly with the championship at stake.

"Gap to Seb has stayed pretty much the same from the morning. We could be pushing a bit harder, but in our case, with the championship on the line, it would be stupid to take any crazy risks," it reads.

Reflecting on the morning's challenges, Ogier expressed caution, emphasising the slippery conditions that demanded utmost care. 

"Some sections were very, very slippy, and I was very cautious, to be honest. It's so easy to damage anything," Ogier admitted, highlighting the delicate balance between speed and preservation.

However, the morning's dramatic events were not limited to the battle between Ogier and Rovanpera.

 Another Toyota contender, Elfyn Evans, encountered a setback due to recurring water splash issues faced by the Japanese team in the previous round in Italy. 

The Welshman's car came to a momentary halt towards the end of the Soysambu stage, causing a stir of concern.

All eyes will now be on the upcoming afternoon session, anticipating a thrilling continuation of the Safari Rally.