Safari Rally: Kalle Rovanpera records terrific start, leading lions in first gravel test in shakedown

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Safari Rally: Kalle Rovanpera records terrific start, leading lions in first gravel test in shakedown

Festus Chuma 12:45 - 27.03.2024

Kalle Rovanperä leads the WRC Safari Rally shakedown, besting his rivals in Kenya and setting high expectations for the competition.

Kalle Rovanpera drew the first blood at the WRC Safari Rally by claiming the fastest time through Wednesday’s shakedown in his  Toyota Yaris.

This victory marks a promising start for the  Finn driver on the Kenyan gravel, hinting at a potential turnaround in his season's fortunes.

Competing for the third time on African soil, Rovanpera topped the timesheets, outpacing his closest rival, Hyundai's Thierry Neuville, by a margin of 0.2 seconds through the challenging 5.4kms Loldia test in Naivasha, Kenya.

The shakedown event provided the first opportunity for teams and drivers to gauge their performance on a loose surface this year, following the icy tarmac of Monte Carlo and the heavy snow of Sweden.

This event stands as the first of eight gravel rallies in the season, presenting unique challenges and the chance for drivers to showcase their speed on the demanding terrain.

Finnish driver Esapekka Lappi, also behind the wheel of a Hyundai i20, secured the third fastest time, trailing the 2024 WRC Rally Sweden champion by just 0.3 seconds.

After the shakedown, Rovampera shared his thoughts, expressing a desire to overturn his less-than-ideal start to the season.

“This is a rally where you normally don't expect too much before the weekend because you never know what's going to happen,” admitted Rovanperä, who maintains a cautious stance given the Safari Rally’s unpredictable nature.

 Ott Tänak had set the pace on the first run, but did not improve as much as his rivals and finished fifth. Like Lappi, he took four runs, with his best time coming on his last attempt, 1.6s slower than the leading pair.

The Safari Rally is set to officially begin on Thursday with a ceremonial flag-off by President William Rutto from the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, featuring 29 crews ready to tackle the rigorous Kenyan landscape.

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