WRC Safari Rally: Rovanpera’s Masterful Performance Leads Toyota’s 1-2 Finish

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WRC Safari Rally: Sublime Rovanpera tames a wild Safari to head Toyota 1-2

Two-time world champions Kalle Rovanpera and his co-driver Jonne Halttunen secured their first victory of the season in the second event of a partial campaign, dominating the competition by a significant margin of 1 minute and 37.8 seconds over their Toyota teammate Takamoto Katsuta. Adrien Fourmaux of M-Sport’s Ford claimed his second career WRC podium, finishing third, trailing by 2 minutes and 25.1 seconds.

Rovanpera demonstrated exceptional speed and consistency throughout the 19 stages in Kenya, widely acknowledged as the most challenging on the WRC calendar. The 2022 Kenya winner navigated the rough gravel conditions flawlessly, emerging as the sole Rally1 driver to complete the event without encountering major delays.

The foundation for Rovanpera’s triumph was laid on a flawless Friday, where he dominated all six tests, establishing a commanding lead of 56.9 seconds. His advantage expanded to over two minutes following a tumultuous Saturday, as his competitors grappled with accidents, punctures, and mechanical issues.

WRC Safari Rally (Credits: Motorsport)

With 18 points accumulated from Saturday’s efforts, Rovanpera could afford to cruise through Sunday’s six stages, sealing his 12th career WRC victory in one of the driest editions of the Safari Rally in recent memory. This triumph marked Toyota’s first win of the season.

Similarly adopting a cautious approach, Katsuta navigated the attritional nature of Kenya’s roads, finishing Friday in third place before encountering setbacks with front and rear-right punctures during the demanding Sleeping Warrior stage on Saturday morning.

Despite these challenges, issues for rivals Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans allowed him to climb to second, a position he maintained till the finish, despite enduring another puncture on Sunday’s stage 14. This result equaled his career-best WRC finish achieved in Kenya in 2021.

M-Sport’s Fourmaux replicated his best WRC result achieved in Sweden last time out, delivering a smart and trouble-free performance. While benefiting from rivals encountering trouble, the Frenchman’s impressive drive was marred only by a front-left puncture on stage 14. Consistency across stages and a fourth-place finish on Sunday ensured his third position in the championship standings.

Title contender Evans secured fourth place, despite a challenging four days marked by four punctures on Saturday, pushing him down the order but earning him valuable points. Although he pushed hard on Sunday, he could only manage third in the Super Sunday classification, adding to the one bonus point clinched in the Power Stage.

WRC Safari Rally
WRC Safari Rally (Credits: Motorsport)

Hyundai’s Neuville finished fifth after enduring a challenging rally plagued by punctures and reliability issues. Despite setbacks, including a fuel system issue that cost him over 10 minutes on Saturday, Neuville fought back on Sunday, securing second in the Super Sunday standings and extending his championship lead over Evans.

Ott Tanak salvaged maximum points by topping the Sunday standings, recovering from a troublesome rally where he finished eighth overall after crashing out of second position on Friday. Despite battling issues with his Hyundai i20 N, Tanak’s Sunday performance propelled him to fourth in the championship standings.

Meanwhile, Esapekka Lappi faced a string of reliability issues, relegating him to 12th overall in the third Hyundai. A terminal transmission failure on stage five and subsequent setbacks including punctures and damage from striking birds compounded his woes.

Gregoire Munster’s aspirations for a solid points finish in the second M-Sport Ford Puma were dashed by a left-rear suspension failure caused by contact with a rock on Saturday, ending his rally prematurely.

In the WRC2 category, Gus Greensmith overcame a stomach bug to clinch victory in his first round of the season, finishing sixth overall with a comfortable margin over WRC2 rival Oliver Solberg, who battled illness and two punctures on Friday. Solberg retains the lead in the WRC2 standings as the series heads to Croatia later this month.


By Aaron

From Vintage Classics to Modern Marvels, Aaron is deeply immersed in the Automobile culture. He is from Kerala and a Man of Few words. He is Someone who loves to spend his free time reading automobile articles and watching TV Shows.

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