Wed 27 Mar 2024

Rapid Rovanperä takes Safari shakedown spoils

Reigning WRC champion Kalle Rovanperä was the man to beat in Wednesday morning’s Safari Rally Kenya shakedown, edging Belgian rival Thierry Neuville by just two-tenths of a second.

The Finn enters this third round of the FIA World Rally Championship with a point to prove after he crashed from the lead of last month’s Rally Sweden early on day one. Back on gravel for the first time this season, Rovanperä was straight on the pace in his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1.

Initially 0.9s slower than Ott Tänak after his first run of the Loldia warm-up test, Rovanperä clocked the fastest time on his second pass, securing the top spot on the leaderboard ahead of Neuville’s Hyundai i20 N. Esapekka Lappi, driving another Hyundai, ended 0.1s further back in third.

“This is a rally where you normally don't expect too much before the weekend because you never know what's going to happen,” admitted Rovanperä, who maintains a cautious stance given the Safari Rally’s unpredictable nature.

“That's my plan at the moment. I don't want to expect anything too much, I just want to have a good rally and we will see what happens.”

Tänak eventually trailed team-mate Lappi by a 1.3s ahead of fifth-placed Elfyn Evans. The Toyota star sits three points adrift of championship leader Neuville coming into this round, while M-Sport Ford hotshot Adrien Fourmaux recorded the sixth-best time in his Puma. Behind him were Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta and Safari debutant Grégoire Munster.

WRC2 hopeful Gus Greensmith outpaced his Toksport team-mate Oliver Solberg by 1.2s, although Africa is already demonstrating its brutal punishing power with both Solberg and Nicolas Ciamin hitting trouble early in the session.

Solberg was lucky to escape with just cosmetic damage to the front of his Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 after overshooting a junction and riding up an embankment, but Ciamin was forced to pull over with damaged front suspension on his Hyundai i20 N Rally2.

Latvia
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Italy
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Hungary
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