WRC Safari Rally Kenya: Rovanperä takes win, Neuville extends WRC lead

WRC Safari Rally: Rovanperä takes win, Neuville extends WRC lead

Kalle Rovanperä is a two-time Safari Rally Kenya winner after clinching victory at the African rally today. The reigning World Champion finished ahead of Takamoto Katsuta and Adrien Fourmaux.

In by far the most gruelling FIA World Rally Championship round so far this season, it was Rovanperä’s meticulous balance of both speed and maturity that ultimately secured his 12th career victory.

The Finn, co-driven by Jonne Halttunen, built a lead of almost one minute after winning all of Friday’s rock-strewn stages around Lake Naivasha, then kept his nose clean to end Saturday two minutes clear as the chasing pack ran into mechanical troubles and tyre damage.

That buffer allowed the two-time WRC champion to drive for a finish in Sunday’s final leg, which culminated amid stunning scenery at Hell’s Gate with Kenyan President William Ruto in attendance.

Takamoto Katstuta completed a Toyota GR Yaris 1-2 as the Japanese marque extended its manufacturers’ championship lead to four points over Hyundai Motorsport, while M-Sport Ford Puma hotshot Adrien Fourmaux bagged his second consecutive podium 47.3s behind.

“It’s always special to win here,” Rovanperä beamed. “Also, a legendary event for Toyota. We’ve always been so good here and that’s continuing. Like they say in Africa: the car in front is always a Toyota!

“A big thanks to the team, everybody made a big effort to make the car work so well. I think me and Jonne did a good job, I don’t think you can have a better Safari Rally than we did. No issues, clever driving and I think it was a good effort.”

Elfyn Evans ended Friday in contention for a podium but a fraught Saturday, which saw the Welshman stop twice to carry out stage-side wheel changes, meant he finished over four minutes back from his team-mate Rovanperä in fourth overall. He remains second in the drivers’ championship behind leader Thierry Neuville, who trailed him by almost six minutes in fifth.

Neuville extends WRC points lead after ‘Super’ Sunday

Neuville now heads Evans by six points but endured a troublesome week aboard his Hyundai i20 N. Fuel pressure problems on Saturday cost the Belgian several minutes and suspension damage on Sunday, inflicted by a rock on the racing line, added insult to injury. His colleagues, Esapekka Lappi and Ott Tänak fared worse.

Lappi’s problems included two broken gearboxes over the course of the week while Tänak could only climb back to eighth overall behind WRC2 runners Gus Greensmith and Oliver Solberg after his car sustained broken suspension on Friday.

Completing the top 10 were gentleman driver Jourdan Serderidis in a Puma and Škoda Fabia Rally2 star Kajetan Kajetanowicz.

The WRC returns to asphalt for next month’s Croatia Rally which takes place from 18 – 21 April. The event is based in capital city Zagreb.

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WRC Safari Rally Kenya 2024 – Final results

#DriversCarTime / Diff. to 1st
1.Rovanperä / HalttunenToyota GR Yaris Rally13:36:04.0
2.Katsuta / JohnstonToyota GR Yaris Rally1+1:37.8
3.Fourmaux / CoriaFord Puma Rally1+2:25.1
4.Evans / MartinToyota GR Yaris Rally1+4:20.2
5.Neuville / WydaegheHyundai i20 N Rally1+10:17.5
6.Greensmith / AnderssonSkoda Fabia RS Rally2+18:05.4
7.Solberg / EdmondsonSkoda Fabia RS Rally2+19:28.5
8.Tänak / JärveojaHyundai i20 N Rally1+21:02.0
9.Serderidis / MiclotteFord Puma Rally1+26:13.3
10.Kajetanowicz / SzczepaniakSkoda Fabia RS Rally2+26:34.4

WRC 2024 Drivers’ Championship – Standings after Round 3/13 [Top 10]

1.Thierry Neuville67
2.Elfyn Evans61 (-6)
3.Adrien Fourmaux46 (-21)
4.Ott Tänak33 (-34)
5.Kalle Rovanperä31 (-36)
6.Takamoto Katsuta30 (-37)
7.Sébastien Ogier24 (-43)
8.Esapekka Lappi23 (-44)
9.Oliver Solberg12 (-55)
10.Gus Greensmith6 (-61)
10.Andreas Mikkelsen6 (-61)
10.Sami Pajari6 (-61)

WRC 2024 Manufacturers’ Championship – Standings after Round 3/13

1.Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT131
2.Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT127 (-4)
3.M-Sport Ford WRT72 (-59)

Photo, text: Red Bull Content Pool