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Rovanperä edges closer to impressive 2024 WRC Safari Rally crown

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Rovanperä
Kalle Rovanperä in action. PHOTO/WRC
  • Rovanperä led on day two of the rally
  • He has built a lead of slightly over two minutes
  • The rally will conclude on Sunday in Naivasha

Finn driver Kalle Rovanperä took a significant step towards clinching his second WRC Safari Rally title, on a day he battled to steer out of trouble as most drivers found the going tough in the gruelling rally, described as the most difficult in the world.

Amidst the most eventful day 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 as he extended his lead into the second day of action in Naivasha.

He widened his lead to an impressive 2m 8.2s 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.

Rovanperä commands good leader as Neuville drops 

Rovanperä

Thierry Neuville in action. PHOTO/WRC

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.

Greensmith continues leading in WRC2

Rovanperä

Gus Greensmith in action. PHOTO/WRC

Meanwhile in the WRC2 category, day one leader Gus Greensmith edged closer to the title after ending Saturday’s penultimate leg with a commanding buffer still intact.

Providing he can steer clear of any major dramas in Sunday’s upcoming final leg, Greensmith is poised to extract maximum points from his first scoring outing of the season.

With his flu-like symptoms gradually improving, Saturday was a much more enjoyable day for the Briton.

Greensmith took full advantage of the mighty lead he’d built over the previous day, taking minimal risks to avoid damaging his tyres on Kenya’s rock-strewn roads. He dropped time to his Toksport Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 team-mate Oliver Solberg, who was hampered by tyre troubles on Friday, across all but one stage but still reached the overnight halt 1m 55.0s clear of the Swede.

“It’s been fine today, I am feeling better now,” Greensmith confirmed. “We took the last one nice and easy because we knew it was going to be rough, and it made no sense to lose time changing a tyre. Nothing was more physically demanding than yesterday – today, in comparison, was a walk in the park.”

Additional reporting by WRC Website

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