The Pole won four of the six special stages on punishing gravel tracks around Lake Naivasha to end the day with an advantage of 1min 13.5sec in his Škoda Fabia Rally2.
Kajetanowicz grabbed the lead from Gaurav Gill in the day’s opening Loldia speed test after the Indian topped the times in yesterday’s short curtain-raising stage in Nairobi.
Although Gill won the next Geothermal test, his day ended prematurely in the following Kedong stage as his Fabia ground to a halt when his engine inhaled huge amounts of sand.
Gill’s demise left Kajetanowicz almost a minute clear. Apart from a brief stop in the final stage when he stalled his car’s engine, the 43-year-old avoided trouble.
Victory could propel Kajetanowicz from fifth to first in the championship, but he is all too aware of the hurdles to come on Saturday’s longest leg, which is expected to be the roughest of the four-day event.
“This is Safari, you never what happens,” he smiled. “I like these stages but Friday is just a warm-up for Saturday. That’s the most difficult day.
“It hasn’t rained for a while, so the roads are dry with lots of dust floating in the air, getting stuck in every slot of the car. Deep ruts appeared on the first loop, with hidden big rocks which are very dangerous for our tyres.”
Martin Prokop and Sean Johnston were engaged in an enthralling fight for second and were separated by just 6.1sec going into the closing stage.
But Czech driver Prokop retired his Ford Fiesta Rally2 less than 5km from the end of the day’s 124.20km of action when the engine stalled and failed to restart.
Ironically, it appeared Prokop would overhaul Johnston as brake troubles slowed the USA driver’s Citroën C3 Rally2 in the same test. “The pedal went to the floor and I drove the last 12km trying not to use the brakes,” he explained.
Prokop still completed the top three despite incurring a 10min penalty for failing to complete the final test and was over two minutes clear of Fiesta driver Leroy Gomes. Local hopefuls Aakif Virani and Amanraaj Rai rounded out the leaderboard in a pair of Fabia cars.
- Full coverage from Safari Rally Kenya is available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.