Puuppola, Finland,

Safari Rally Kenya: Day 3


TOYOTA GAZOO Racing remains in front on demanding Safari

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team and Kalle Rovanperä continue to lead Safari Rally Kenya with one day to go, with Takamoto Katsuta in second and Elfyn Evans fourth after an eventful Saturday.

This was the longest day of the demanding event with 160.96 competitive kilometres spread across two loops of three stages around Lake Elmenteita. Crews faced the toughest conditions of the weekend so far, with a variety of rocky and sandy tracks as well as sharp rain showers.

Rovanperä entered the day with a lead of 56.9 seconds after winning all six stages on Friday. This enabled him to take a more careful approach to Saturday’s challenges, but he did still win the morning pass of Sleeping Warrior – the longest stage of the rally at an extended 36.08 km – by almost 25s as the majority of his competitors encountered trouble, including his two team-mates.

Second at the start of the day, Evans already had to stop to change a wheel and tyre early in the morning’s first stage, losing close to 1m50s. He would pick up another puncture near the end of Sleeping Warrior, costing him around another 40s. 

In the same stage, Katsuta sustained a double puncture to lose over a minute and drop from second to third, but he would regain the position in the first stage of the afternoon having been fastest on both runs through Soysambu. After a clean second pass through Sleeping Warrior, he ended the day two minutes behind Rovanperä but over one minute in front of third-placed Adrien Fourmaux (M-Sport Ford).

Fighting back in the afternoon, Evans would set the fastest time in the penultimate test, but Sleeping Warrior would bite once more, forcing him to stop and change another tyre just a few kilometres from the end. Another two minutes were lost but Evans still ended Saturday fourth overall and ahead of his main championship rival Thierry Neuville (Hyundai). 

Under the new scoring system for 2024, points will be awarded based on the positions held at the end of Saturday – should drivers complete the event on Sunday, when up to 12 additional points are available.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal) 
“Generally we can be really pleased with today, given how much drama there was – like there always seems to be on this event. Kalle has driven perfectly today: he’s been really patient and played it clever, pushing harder when he’s been able to and taking it easy when it’s been rough and rocky. Taka has been fantastic in second overall, while Elfyn has had a rough day and some bad luck with punctures. There are big rocks hidden in the grass and it’s easy to hit those as we’ve seen. But still Elfyn is fourth overall and ahead of Thierry, his closest rival in the championship, at the end of Saturday and I’m sure it will be an open fight between them for Sunday points which will be interesting to follow. Hopefully we can bring home another great result here in Kenya.”

Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69) 
“It’s nice to end today with a good lead. This morning we had the plan to just take it quite carefully with a steady pace and make no mistakes. Our time on Sleeping Warrior was good: everyone had some issues and I felt I could manage the pace quite well. I was just trying to manage the risk, to not push so hard in the rough or tricky places, and you also need a bit of luck that everything goes well. It’s not always so enjoyable driving like that, just trying to go around every single rock, but it has paid off so far. Tomorrow is still a tough day and we will try to finish the job.”

Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33) 
“It’s not been a good day for us. There were some good moments: I felt a bit better in the car than yesterday and the pace was OK at points. But to have three punctures during the day really set us back. The outcome was not what we wanted and it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. We have to try and get as many points as we can from tomorrow but it’s still a long and difficult Sunday and we need to get to the finish to get any points. We just have to focus on driving and see what we can do.”

Takamoto Katsuta (Driver car 18) 
“Today started very well with a fastest time: the car felt good, it was not a big push but still the time was good so I was quite happy. We expected Sleeping Warrior would be tough, especially as the new section at the end was full of random rocks that you can’t see because they’re hidden in the grass. Unfortunately we hit a big one, which felt very disappointing because I was trying to avoid problems, but almost everybody had trouble there. In the end, I’m very happy with what I have done so far. Tomorrow the main priority is to bring the car to the finish, and maybe there is a possibility to gain some points for the team as well.”

End of day three (Saturday):

1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 2h48m50.2s
2 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +2m08.9s
3 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +3m13.3s
4 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +5m35.6s
5 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +11m48.6s
6 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +15m02.0s
7 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +16m57.0s
8 Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +21m15.7s
9 Jourdan Serderidis/Fréderic Miclotte (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +21m56.4s
10 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +21m58.1s
(Results as of 18:00 on Saturday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)

What's next? 
There are another two loops of three stages around Lake Naivasha still to be tackled on the final day on Sunday, and a total of 74.38 competitive kilometres. Hell’s Gate completes the loop with its second pass serving as the rally-ending Power Stage.


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