World rally championship

Rovanperä leads a TGR charge in Kenya

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team’s Kalle Rovanperä won every stage on the first full day of Safari Rally Kenya to lead his team-mates Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta.

After Thursday afternoon’s opening super special in Nairobi, crews would tackle two loops of three stages around Lake Naivasha, close to the service park. Although the weather conditions remained mainly dry, drivers still faced a variety of rough gravel tracks that tested cars and tyres.

Third at the start of the day, Rovanperä was narrowly fastest in the morning’s opening stage Loldia when he claimed the rally lead, and then again in the following Geothermal test. He was then dominant in the day’s longest stage, Kedong, where he was quickest by 11.1 seconds. He repeated this trio of stage wins in the afternoon to end the day with an advantage of 56.9s as he targets his second Safari success.

Evans was fifth after the morning loop but found improved pace in the afternoon and lifted himself above Katsuta and into second place in the day’s final stage. There are 3.9s between them tonight, with fourth-placed Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) 6.5s further back.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)

“It has been a very good day for us. This afternoon we saw how the Safari Rally can punish you quite quickly, but we can be very happy: our cars have been reliable, the drivers have been patient and to be in this position at the end of the day is fantastic. Kalle has driven very well and he has a good lead. Elfyn changed his setup at lunchtime and that was giving him more confidence, while Taka has been very patient as well. Still, Thierry is close behind and keeping the pressure on. The most important thing tomorrow is to stay patient, because if the rain comes it can become really muddy and then it’s all about surviving those conditions.”

Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)

“It has been a really good day for us. Our plan was to try and make the most of our starting place today. I felt I could manage the pace quite well. I was quite happy pushing hard when the conditions were good, and then especially this afternoon taking care of the car and the tyres in the rough places and still we could have good times. It’s still a long rally ahead and even a lead of almost one minute is not a lot here because anything can happen: if some big rain comes we know that the gaps can be huge and you can lose a lot of time. So we’ll just try to keep on working the same way as we did today.”

Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)

“It’s been a tough day out there like it always is on the Safari Rally. It’s very easy to get caught out here as we’ve seen again today. We didn’t have the best morning: it was just not really flowing and working as well as I’d like and we didn’t have the speed we wanted either. I was struggling a bit with the balance and my own rhythm and was maybe a bit too conservative in places. After making some changes in service, we made a step in the right direction this afternoon and the times were a bit better and I enjoyed the driving a bit more. The gaps behind are still quite tight and with such a long day tomorrow with perhaps some unpredictable conditions, we can’t count too much yet.”

Takamoto Katsuta (Driver car 18)

“It’s been a pretty good day and a clean day. The stages were quite rough like we expected, but the car was working well and I felt comfortable. I was just following my strategy to be patient and not do anything crazy. I felt good in the first two stages this afternoon, the times were good even though I was not really pushing. Then on the last one with a soft surface, you need to really push to gain the time and if you’re careful like I was, you’re easily losing time. Tomorrow is a big day where anything can happen, and I will just keep doing what I’m doing, try to stay on the road and focus on myself.”

End of day two (Friday):
1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 1h16m22.6s
2 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +56.9s
3 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m00.8s
4 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +1m07.3s
5 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +1m46.6s
6 Grégoire Munster/Louis Louka (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +3m34.2s
7 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +6m51.3s
8 Jourdan Serderidis/Fréderic Miclotte (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +9m11.7s
9 Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +10m14.3s
10 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +10m28.8s

External Credits:

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT


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