Safari Rally Kenya: Rovanpera steers clear of drama to maintain lead amidst rival troubles

©Kalle Rovanpera

MOTORSPORTS Safari Rally Kenya: Rovanpera steers clear of drama to maintain lead amidst rival troubles

Festus Chuma 18:06 - 30.03.2024

Kalle Rovanpera continues to lead Safari Rally Kenya amid chaos, as teammates and rivals face setbacks, punctures, and mechanical issues on treacherous terrain.

Kalle Rovanpera continues to dominate the 2024 World Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally Kenya maintaining his lead with a performance that echoes his world champion status. 

However, the rally was not short of action and drama, particularly among his Toyota teammates, Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta, who faced significant setbacks on Saturday morning. 

The rugged terrains of Soysambu delivered a harsh reality check to several teams, with Evans bearing the brunt of it early in the day.

Evans, Toyota's prime contender for the drivers' championship, encountered a rear-left puncture that forced him to halt and change the tyre, costing him almost two minutes. 

"The Soysambu stage was a rough wake-up call," he commented on the incident. 

The troubles for Toyota did not end there, as Katsuta suffered a front-right puncture on the Sleeping Warrior stage. Unlike Evans, Katsuta chose to press on, losing a minute to his rivals.

These mishaps allowed Thierry Neuville, the sole Hyundai driver left in contention after a challenging Friday, to climb to second place.

Despite moving up, Neuville did not escape the Sleeping Warrior stage unscathed, driving over a stone and damaging his car.

"Just before the finish, we drove over a stone and bent something, making the car difficult to drive," Neuville explained.

Evans' day went from bad to worse when he encountered another puncture on Sleeping Warrior, losing an additional 30 seconds.

 "We were trying to be smooth and slow, but it was difficult to make it through," he lamented.

The sequence of events has reshaped the leaderboard, with Katsuta now 55 seconds behind Neuville in third place.

Adrien Fourmaux of M-Sport found himself in fourth place, benefiting from a relatively trouble-free morning loop.

Evans' second puncture significantly impacted his standing, leaving him trailing Fourmaux by 53.2 seconds as they headed to the midday service.

M-Sport's rally was further dampened by Grégoire Munster's retirement on the road section between Soysambu and Elmenteita. 

After clipping a rock hidden in a bush and breaking the left-rear driveshaft and links, Munster attempted a roadside fix. Unfortunately, his efforts were in vain as he ran out of time, leading to his withdrawal from the day's competition.

The rally also saw the return of Ott Tanak and Esapekka Lappi under super rally conditions, though both drivers encountered their own challenges. 

Tanak faced several undisclosed issues with his i20 N Rally1, including an intercom failure on Elmenteita, forcing co-driver Martin Järveoja to resort to hand signals. Both Hyundais suffered punctures on Sleeping Warrior, adding to the day's drama.

In the WRC2 category, Gus Greensmith holds the sixth overall position despite a puncture on Soysambu and health issues. "I'm still feeling unwell but pressing on regardless," Greensmith stated, showcasing the resilience typical of rally drivers.

Sandwiched between the leading WRC2 contenders, Jourdan Serderidis secured seventh overall, with Oliver Solberg trailing closely behind in eighth, 21.5 seconds adrift of the Ford Puma driver. 

The Safari Rally Kenya continues to test the mettle of drivers and teams alike with Rovanpera leading the charge amidst the chaos unfolding behind him.

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