By Mwambazi Lawrence

March 29, 2024

In a display of sheer dominance, Kalle Rovanpera of the Toyota Gazoo Racing stamped his authority on Friday’s opening leg of the WRC Safari Rally Kenya. With a staggering lead of 56.9 seconds, Rovanpera showcased a masterful performance, leaving his competitors trailing behind on the rugged terrains around Naivasha.

Kalle Rovanpera swept all six special stages in his Toyota GR Yaris on Friday

Despite opting for a limited FIA World Rally Championship campaign in 2024, Rovanpera proved unstoppable in his second start of the season, navigating the rough, rock-strewn gravel stages with precision alongside his co-driver Jonne Halttunen. The duo secured fastest times on all six of Friday’s challenging stages, firmly establishing Toyota’s dominance early on.

Teammates Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta bolstered Toyota’s position, clinching a remarkable 1-2-3 finish in their GR Yaris Rally1 machines. The Japanese marque capitalized on a disastrous afternoon for their WRC rivals at Hyundai Motorsport, as both Esapekka Lappi and Ott Tanak were forced to retire from the rally.

Lappi, who emerged victorious in the previous round on the snowy tracks of Sweden, initially posed a threat to Rovanpera’s lead but was plagued by a transmission failure in the fourth stage after service, abruptly ending his contention. Tanak, too, faced misfortune when his car suffered broken steering after colliding with a rock in the subsequent test, further bolstering Toyota’s dominance.

Amidst the turmoil, Evans and Katsuta seized the opportunity, completing Toyota’s preliminary podium lockout. The duo’s remarkable performance, with Evans edging ahead of Katsuta by a mere 3.9 seconds in the final stage, underscored Toyota’s formidable presence in the rally.

Reflecting on his exceptional performance, Rovanpera expressed satisfaction, acknowledging the challenging conditions of the final stage. Despite the temptation to push harder, he opted for a cautious approach to preserve the car’s integrity, ultimately securing a commanding lead.

Meanwhile, WRC points leader Thierry Neuville emerged as Hyundai’s sole contender following his teammates’ retirements. Despite encountering troubles of his own, including a tire failure in the day’s second stage, Neuville showcased resilience, narrowing the gap to a podium position as he trailed Katsuta by just 6.5 seconds.

Thierry Neuville from Belgium in full attack mode during the WRC Safari Rally Kenya at Ndulele Conservancy in Naivasha.

In the midst of the fierce competition, M-Sport Ford’s Adrien Fourmaux maintained a steady pace to secure fifth place, navigating the rough terrain with finesse despite challenges encountered along the way.

In the WRC2 category, Gus Greensmith emerged as the frontrunner, leading by more than three minutes despite battling flu-like symptoms throughout the day. With his closest rival, Oliver Solberg, encountering setbacks, Greensmith capitalized on the opportunity to extend his lead, demonstrating unwavering determination amidst adversity.

WRC2 leader Gus Greensmith at maximum attack during fridays stages

As the rally transitions into the second leg, anticipation mounts for another day of exhilarating competition. With six stages totaling 100 competitive miles, drivers brace themselves for the arduous challenges ahead. However, amidst the intensity of the competition, setbacks loomed for Uganda’s Yasin Nasser, who suffered a significant setback after rolling his Ford Fiesta R5 in the sixth stage of the day, marking an unfortunate end to his rally aspirations.

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1 thought on “Rovanpera Dominates Day2 of The WRC Safari Rally Kenya

  1. As a journalism lecturer I admire your writing style and the enthusiasm you have in matters rally. Motorsport reporting is not well exploited in East Africa. It’s awesome to see writers like you taking it to another level. Keep Soaring.

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