Flawless Rovanpera seals WRC Safari Rally Kenya victory

By | March 31, 2024

Kalle Rovanpera (above) put in a flawless performance and became a two-time winner of the WRC Safari Rally Kenya. The Toyota Gazoo Racing ace finished the grueling African event on Sunday afternoon with a victory margin of 1.37.8 seconds, having led since the opening stages on Friday morning.

In what was by far the most challenging FIA World Rally Championship round so far this season, it was the two-time and reigning champion’s careful balance of speed and maturity that ultimately secured his twelfth career WRC victory.

The 23-year-old Finn, co-driven by Jonne Halttunen, built a lead of almost a minute after winning all the rock-strewn stages around Lake Naivasha in his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 on Friday, before keeping things clean to take second to conclude Saturday’s stage. two minutes ahead when the chasing peloton suffered mechanical problems and tire damage.

That buffer allowed Rovanpera, who has opted to run only a part-time WRC campaign in 2024, to drive to the finish in Sunday’s final stage, which consisted of six stages and culminated amid breathtaking scenery and the wandering nature of the 6.54 mile long Hell’s Gate. test.

Kalle Rovanpera and Jonne Halttunen added a second Safari Rally victory to the Toyota duo’s 2022 victory. Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

“It’s always special to win here,” said Rovanpera. “Moreover, it is a legendary event for Toyota. We have always been so good here and it will continue to be so.

“Many thanks to the team; Everyone has put a lot of effort into making the car work so well. I think Jonne and I did a good job; I don’t think you can have a better Safari Rally than us. No problems, smart driving and I think it was a good effort.”

Takamoto Katsuta completed a Toyota 1-2 as the Japanese brand extended its lead in the Constructors’ Championship to four points over Hyundai Motorsport.

Takamoto Katsuta earned his third career Safari Rally podium by completing a Toyota 1-2 in Kenya. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans finished Friday in contention for a podium finish and a possible Toyota sweep, but a fraught Saturday, which saw the Welshman make two stops to change wheels on the podium side, meant he found himself more than four minutes behind his teammate Rovanpera finished fourth. . He remains second in the WRC Drivers’ Championship behind leader Thierry Neuville, who was almost six minutes behind him in fifth place.

M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1 driver Adrien Fourmaux drove home Evans to complete the podium after a clean and measured drive, with the Frenchman taking his second consecutive third place, albeit some 47.3 seconds behind Katsuta’s Yaris.

M-Sport Ford’s Adrien Fourmaux produced a clean and measured drive to secure his second consecutive WRC finish. Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Neuville now leads Evans by six points in the WRC standings, but endured a difficult week aboard his Hyundai i20 N Rally1. Fuel pressure problems on Saturday cost the Belgian several minutes and suspension damage on Sunday, caused by a stone on the racing line, made the injury worse.

His teammates, Esapekka Lappi and Ott Tanak, fared worse. Lappi’s problems included two broken gearboxes during the week, while Tanak was only able to climb back to eighth in the overall standings after his car suffered a broken suspension on Friday.

In WRC2, Gus Greensmith got his campaign off to a perfect start after winning the WRC’s main support category in his Toksport Skoda Fabia RS by a margin of 1.23.1s.

Early in the rally the odds were stacked against the British driver. He struggled with flu-like symptoms during Friday’s opening stage on rough gravel roads around Lake Naivasha, but opened up a commanding lead of more than three minutes after his main rival Oliver Solberg lost significant time with punctures.

Solberg fought back to finish second in his Skoda, finishing fastest in class in 11 of the rally’s 19 stages, but the deficit was ultimately too big to overcome. Greensmith cruised through the final kilometers to take a mighty sixth place overall.

“It’s been a long week, but I’m really happy,” Greensmith said. “Thank you to the [Toksport] team this weekend they were perfect.”

Gus Greensmith got his 2024 WRC2 campaign on the best of terms with a victory in the Safari Rally class. Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

After the heat that clogged the dust and rocks of the Kenyan stages, the WRC returns to the tarmac for next month’s Croatia Rally in Zagreb from April 18 to 21.

WRC Safari Rally Kenya, finishing positions after stage three, SS19
1 Kalle Rovanpera/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1) 3h36m04.0s
2 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1) +1m37.8s
3 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Puma Rally1) +2m25.1s
4 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1) +4m20.2s
5 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1) +10m17.5s
6 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Anedrsson (Skoda Fabia RS – WRC2 winner) +18m05.4s
7 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Skoda Fabia RS – WRC2) +19m28.5s
8 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja (Hyundai i20 N Rally1) +21m02.0s
9 Jordan Serderidis/Frederic Miclotte (Ford Puma Rally1) +26m13.3s
10 Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (Skoda Fabia RS – WRC2) +26m34.4s

WRC Drivers’ Championship after 3 rounds
1
Neuville 67 points
2 Evans 61
3 Fourmaux 46
4 Tanak 33
5 Rovanpera 31

WRC Manufacturers’ Championship after 3 rounds
1
Toyota Gazoo Racing 131 points
2 Hyundai Motorsport 127
3 M Sport Ford 72

Checking out WRC.com, the official home of the FIA ​​World Rally Championship. And for the ultimate WRC experience, sign up for one Rally.TV subscription to watch all stages of every rally live and on demand, wherever and whenever.

The story originally appeared on Racer

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