world rally championship

Sleeping Giant Awakens To Cause Chaos

Kalle Rovanperä took a significant step towards clinching his second Safari Rally Kenya victory, steering clear of trouble while his WRC counterparts encountered difficulties on Saturday.

Amidst the most eventful day of this FIA World Rally Championship season thus far, which was marked by fluctuating conditions ranging from dry and dusty to wet and muddy, Rovanperä was one of few stars to enjoy a clean run. He widened his lead to an impressive 2m 8.9s as drivers including Thierry Neuville, Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta faced significant setbacks.

Despite dominating every stage the previous day, Rovanperä adopted a more conservative approach on Saturday's roads near Lake Elmenteita, located south of the rally's Naivasha base. He initially headed Toyota GR Yaris team-mates Evans and Katsuta until the pair fell behind after sustaining punctures in the morning.

Thierry Neuville emerged as Rovanperä's closest threat, but his challenge was short-lived after his Hyundai i20 N encountered a fuel system issue during the afternoon’s first stage at Soysambu. Neuville dropped more than two-and-a-half minutes as he nursed the problem through the remaining two stages, which opened the door for Katsuta to reclaim the runner-up spot ahead of M-Sport Ford Puma man Adrien Fourmaux.

Rovanperä’s Saturday standing will earn him 18 points provided he completes Sunday’s stages. Katsuta will receive 15 while Fourmaux, who ended 3m 13.3s off the lead, gets 13.

"The lead is now quite good,” said the two time world champion, “so of course we took it carefully.

“It's not so enjoyable when you have a big lead and in a stage like [Sleeping Warrior] you just go around every rock, it's scary. Tomorrow is still a tough day and we will try to finish the job.

Fourmaux survived a front-left tyre delamination in the final stage and is now on track to secure his second top-three finish in consecutive rallies following his maiden podium in Sweden. He led fourth-placed Evans, who suffered a total of four punctures, by over two minutes.

A visibly upset Neuville completed the top five more than 11 minutes adrift of the leading pace with WRC2 frontrunners Gus Greensmith and Oliver Solberg behind.

Kajetan Kajetanowicz was eighth ahead of Jourdan Serderidis and Ott Tänak, who restarted following his Friday retirement. Tänak faced further problems which included a loose bonnet pin, malfunctioning intercom and excessive dust inside his Hyundai, but remains within touching distance of the two drivers ahead of him.

Sunday’s finale features three stages - each run twice - covering both sides of Lake Naivasha.

Leading positions after Saturday:
1. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris 2h 48m 50.2s
2. T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris +2m 8.9s
3. A Fourmaux / A Coria FRA Ford Puma +3m 13.3s
4. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +5m 35.6s
5. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +11m 48.6s
6. G Greensmith / J Andersson GBR Škoda Fabia +15m 2.0s

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