By Mwambazi Lawrence

In a thrilling display of skill and endurance, Kalle Rovanperä emerged victorious in the Safari Rally Kenya, clinching his second consecutive win at the challenging African terrain. The young Finnish driver, accompanied by co-driver Jonne Halttunen, demonstrated a masterful blend of speed and maturity throughout the race, ultimately securing his 12th career victory in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).

Winner takes it all Kalle Rovenpera and codriver Jonne Halttunen celebrate the win after crossing the finish Line

From the outset, Rovanperä showcased his dominance, seizing the lead since Friday morning and maintaining a formidable position throughout the rally. Negotiating the treacherous terrains and unforgiving conditions of the Safari Rally, he built a substantial lead, leaving his competitors trailing behind. His flawless performance on Friday’s rocky stages around Lake Naivasha laid the foundation for his triumph, as he continued to extend his advantage over the ensuing days.

Spectacular drive from champion Kalle Rovenpera and codriver Jonne Halttunen winners of the Safari Rally 2024

As the race progressed into Saturday, Rovanperä’s steady pace and strategic driving further solidified his position at the forefront of the pack. Despite challenges faced by other contenders, including mechanical issues and tyre damage, the Finn remained undeterred, showcasing resilience and determination on every stage.

The final leg of the rally culminated in a spectacular finish at Hell’s Gate, with Kenyan President William Ruto in attendance to witness Rovanperä’s triumphant moment. The Toyota GR Yaris driver crossed the finish line with a comfortable margin of 1 minute and 37.8 seconds, reaffirming his status as a formidable force in the world of rallying.

Takamoto Katstuta secured a commendable second place, completing a Toyota GR Yaris 1-2, while M-Sport Ford Puma’s Adrien Fourmaux clinched the third spot on the podium. The Japanese manufacturer’s strong showing propelled them to extend their lead in the manufacturers’ championship, edging ahead of Hyundai Motorsport by four points.

An impressive drive from ford’s Adrien Fourmaux who crossed the finish in 3rd ovaral

Reflecting on his victory, Rovanperä expressed his gratitude to his team for their unwavering support and praised the impeccable performance of his Toyota car. With characteristic humility, he credited his co-driver and himself for executing a flawless rally, emphasizing the importance of smart driving and flawless execution.

While Rovanperä soared to victory, the rally was not without its share of challenges for other contenders. Elfyn Evans, initially in contention for a podium finish, faced setbacks on Saturday, resulting in a fourth-place finish overall. Thierry Neuville, despite trailing behind in fifth place, maintained his lead in the drivers’ championship, albeit by a narrow margin over Evans.

Despite all the weekend troubles Thierry Henry and codriver Martin Wydaeghe won the power stage going away with the 5bonus points

Neuville’s journey in the Safari Rally was fraught with difficulties, including fuel pressure issues and suspension damage, underscoring the demanding nature of the event. His Hyundai teammates, Esapekka Lappi and Ott Tänak, also encountered their share of troubles, highlighting the unpredictable and gruelling conditions faced by all participants.

In WRC2 Gus Greensmith kicked off his campaign in style, clinching victory in the premier support category in his Toksport Skoda Fabia RS. Despite battling flu-like symptoms during Friday’s leg on rough gravel roads around Lake Naivasha, the British driver surged ahead, building a lead of over three minutes as his main rival Oliver Solberg suffered punctures. Although Solberg staged a comeback, finishing fastest in class in 11 of the rally’s 19 stages, the gap proved insurmountable. Greensmith, ultimately securing a formidable sixth-place overall finish, comfortably navigated the closing miles.

Gus Greensmith and codriver Jonas Andersson winners of the WRC2 category

Amidst the roar of engines and the thrill of competition, Carl Tundo emerged as the best-placed Kenyan driver, navigating the challenging terrain alongside his co-driver, Tim Jessop. Tundo’s impressive performance, culminating in a seventh-place finish in the WRC 2 division and 16th overall, earned him the adulation of his compatriots and the respect of his peers.

Carl Tundo was the best placed local driver navigated by longtime codriver Tim Jassop

As the dust settles on the African plains and the echoes of engines fade into the distance, the WRC caravan sets its sights on its next destination: Zagreb, Croatia. With the fourth round of the championship beckoning scheduled for April 18th to 21st, the rallying world braces itself for another exhilarating chapter in its storied history, where heroes will rise, challenges will abound, and the spirit of competition will reign supreme.

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