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Rovanpera dominates to lead day 2 at WRC Safari Rally

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Kalle Rovanpera in flying action in Naivasha. PHOTO/WRC
  • Rovanpera leads a Toyota 1-2-3 on the second day
  • The Finn holds a 59.6 second lead
  • The third day on Friday will be the toughest

The Toyota Gazoo Racing Team once again dominated Kenyan roads, with Kalle Rovanpera leading a top three sweep of the second day of the World Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally in Naivasha.

The rally was flagged off on Thursday at the KICC by President William Ruto, and moved to Naivasha for the first of three action filled days in the Rift Valley town.

Rovanpera was dominant on the opening day in Naivasha, building a 56.9-second lead.

The Finn, winner of the FIA World Rally Championship for two years running, was simply untouchable as he and co-driver Jonne Halttunen romped to fastest times on all six of Friday’s rugged gravel speed tests around Lake Naivasha.

His team-mates Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta made it a GR Yaris 1-2-3, the Japanese marque capitalising on what unravelled into a disastrous afternoon for rival team Hyundai Motorsport after its drivers Esapekka Lappi and Ott Tänak bowed into retirement.

Lappi had been Rovanpera’s nearest challenger at the day’s midpoint, but a transmission failure sidelined his i20 N car in the first stage after service. That elevated Tänak to second until his similar machine stopped in the following Geothermal test with broken steering after hitting a rock.

Evans and Katsuta were on hand to pick up the pieces and complete Toyota’s podium lockout after Rovanpera’s lead. They were split by just 3.9s after Evans moved ahead in the final stage of the day.

Rovanpera happy with opening day perfomance


Onlookers enjoy action at the WRC Safari Rally. PHOTO/WRC

“I have to be happy with that,” Rovanpera smiled. “For sure, on the last one the conditions were quite rough, and I think from every car [the ruts] get a bit deeper in places. I didn’t take any risks and I was going around all the stones to try and keep the car in one piece. I would have loved to go even faster, but at this point this is okay!”

Championship leader Thierry Neuville became Hyundai’s only hope, although the Belgian encountered troubles himself with tyre damage in SS3. The flailing rubber punched a hole in his Hyundai’s bodywork, forcing the Belgian and co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe to don goggles and dust masks for the final stage of the morning.

A more positive afternoon saw Neuville edge closer to podium position. Beaten only by Rovanpera in Kedong 2, he trails Katsuta by a mere 6.5s heading into Saturday’s penultimate leg.

M-Sport Ford’s Adrien Fourmaux had to contend with his Puma surfing on its sump guard in some of the rougher sections, but he coped well to hold fifth after a relatively clean day. The Frenchman ended almost two minutes back from the lead with team-mate Grégoire Munster – contesting his first Safari in Rally1 machinery – a similar distance behind.

With Oliver Solberg hampered by tyre troubles, Gus Greensmith built a commanding lead in WRC2 and also placed seventh overnight. Jourdan Serderidis, Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Solberg completed the top 10.

Saturday is the longest day of the rally and features six stages totalling 160.96km. Up first is Soysambu, which starts at 08:01 (local).

Gus Greensmith leads in WRC2


Gus Greensmith in action in Naivasha. PHOTO/WRC

Meanwhile, Gus Greensmith led WRC2 by more than three minutes despite experiencing flu-like symptoms throughout Friday.

Greensmith kicked off his 2024 campaign at this third round of the FIA World Rally Championship and, although he wasn’t feeling fighting fit, things couldn’t have gone much better for the Briton.

Having opened up a slender advantage early on Friday, a weight was lifted from Greensmith’s shoulders when his nearest challenger Oliver Solberg – driving a similar Toksport Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 – stopped to change a wheel in SS3.

With Solberg dropping back and the rest of the field not posing any major threat, Greensmith could afford to manage his risk level on the rugged African stages. After ending the day 3m 23.0s clear of second-placed Kajetan Kajetanicz, he was simply looking forward to getting some rest.

“This afternoon has been the toughest afternoon I’ve ever had in rallying,” Greensmith said. “I’m absolutely exhausted. I need a bed – and soon!”

-Additional information from WRC Website 

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