Safari Rally: Kalle Rovanpera seizes lead with spectacular performance on second day

© WRC.

Safari Rally: Kalle Rovanpera seizes lead with spectacular performance on second day

Joel Omotto 21:30 - 29.03.2024

Two-time World Rally Championship Kalle Rovanpera lead a Toyota 1-2-3 to a dominant performance as the Safari Rally entered Day Two on Good Friday.

In a display of sheer mastery, Kalle Rovanpera of Toyota Gazoo Racing blazed through the second day of the WRC Safari Rally, establishing a commanding lead of 56.9 seconds over his rivals.

The Finnish sensation, a two-time FIA World Rally Championship victor, alongside his co-driver Jonne Halttunen, delivered a flawless performance, setting the fastest times across all six of Friday's grueling gravel speed tests around Lake Naivasha.

Rovanpera's stellar showing spearheaded a Toyota GR Yaris 1-2-3, with his teammates Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta securing second and third positions respectively. The Japanese marque capitalized on a tumultuous afternoon for rival team Hyundai Motorsport, as both Esapekka Lappi and Ott Tanak were forced into retirement due to car failures.

Lappi, initially Rovanpera's closest contender, suffered a transmission failure in his i20 N car in the first stage after service, while Tanak's car encountered broken steering following a collision with a rock in the subsequent Geothermal test. Evans and Katsuta capitalized on these setbacks, solidifying Toyota's podium dominance.

Reflecting on his stellar performance, Rovanpera expressed satisfaction with his results, highlighting the challenging conditions of the final stage and his focus on preserving the car.

"I have to be happy with that. For sure, on the last one the conditions were quite rough, and I think from every car [the ruts] get a bit deeper in places. I didn't take any risks and I was going around all the stones to try and keep the car in one piece. I would have loved to go even faster, but at this point this is okay," he said.

Despite facing challenges including tyre damage in SS3, championship leader Thierry Neuville managed to maintain competitiveness throughout the day. With a strong afternoon performance, Neuville positioned himself within striking distance of the podium, trailing Katsuta by a mere 6.5 seconds.

M-Sport Ford's Adrien Fourmaux and Gregoire Munster showcased commendable performances, securing fifth and sixth positions respectively amidst the rugged terrains of the Safari Rally. Gus Greensmith emerged as a dominant force in WRC2, claiming seventh place overall.

As competitors look ahead to Saturday, the rally's longest day, they will face six stages totaling 160.96km, with the Soysambu stage set to kick off proceedings at 08:01.

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