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Kalle Rovanpera fastest in WRC Safari Rally shakedown

Kalle Rovanpera during WRC Safari Rally shakedown
  • Rovanpera is the leader of the World Rally Championship
  • Drivers did four loops of the Loldia shakedown stretch
  • The Rally starts proper on Thursday with the flag off at KICC

Toyota’s Kalle Rovanpera was quickest in shakedown on Wednesday as the excitement towards the WRC Safari Rally started in Naivasha. The Finnish driver who is leading the World Rally Championship standings edged out Belgian Hyundai driver Theirry Neuville by five-tenths of a second.

Rovanpera’s quickest time was three minutes, 4.1secs with the returning Rally legend Sébastien Loeb coming in third 1.3sec further back in an M-Sport Ford Puma.

The 21-year-old Finn driving the new generation hybrid-powered Rally1 cars however expects a tougher rally in Naivasha, noting that some stages have been tweaked to make it harder for the drivers while new sections have been added.

“I am looking forward to a great week of Safari. But this year the Safari will be more challenging because the stages look tougher and rougher than last year. So, that will be something we’ll try to do; but I think it will not be so easy,” Rovanpera said.

He added; “There are rougher parts and it is even smoother in some places. The approach will be to try and avoid the mistakes of last year and a run clean rally this week. I hope to stretch my lead on the Championship log after Safari. The pressure is not so much on me with the championship standings being so good for us.”


Thierry Neiville during WRC Safari Rally shakedown

The Finn was fastest in shakedown, edging out Thierry Neuville by five-tenths of a second through the warm up session ahead of competition proper which starts on Friday.

Last year’s Safari winner Sébastien Ogier was fastest out of the blocks with his GR Yaris before team-mate Rovanperä posted the benchmark time on his second run. The Finn, like many of the drivers, believes conditions will be even more challenging than in 2021.

“It seems that this year the rally will be even tougher. I was not expecting such rough conditions like we saw on the recce and the roads are even more soft than last year,” said the Frenchman.

He added; “I think, in some places, it might be good to be the first car on the road here. Of course, we will have some cleaning in some sections, but that is not the biggest place where you can lose time here.”

Meanwhile, Ott Tänak matched Loeb’s pace to claim fourth in a Hyundai, with Ogier eventually finishing just four-tenths further back in fifth.


Sebastien Loeb during WRC Safari Rally shakedown

Takamoto Katsuta and Elfyn Evans brought their Yaris cars home in sixth and seventh, while Puma stars Gus Greensmith, Adrien Fourmaux and Craig Breen rounded off the leaderboard.

While the stage was representative of the punishing broken tests that competitors will face over the next few days, conditions remained dry and dusty. With thunderstorms predicted later this week, the roads could very quickly turn into treacherous mudbaths.

The Rally will be officially flagged off on Thursday afternoon by President Uhuru Kenyatta at the KICC before drivers head to the Kasarani Super Special Stage.

Cars will then drive down to Naivasha for proper action of the remaining 18 stages of the gruelling three-day rally, the longest so far in the World Rally Championship calendar.

Times at shakedown:

  1. Kalle ROVANPERÄ Toyota GR Yaris                 3min 42.1sec
  2. Thierry NEUVILLE Hyundai i20 N                    +0.5sec
  3. Sébastien LOEB Ford Puma                          +1.8sec
  4. Ott TÄNAK                 Hyundai i20 N                    +1.8sec
  5. Sébastien OGIER Toyota GR Yaris                 +2.2sec
  6. Takamoto KATSUTA        Toyota GR Yaris                 +4.0sec
  1. Elfyn EVANS                 Toyota GR Yaris                 +4.6sec
  2. Gus GREENSMITH Ford Puma                          +4.6sec
  3. Adrien FOURMAUX Ford Puma                          +4.8sec
  4. Craig BREEN                 Ford Puma                          +5.6sec

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