NAIVASHA, Kenya, June 24 – World Rally Championship series leader Kalle Rovanpera of Finland took advantage of the fesh fesh challenge that saw the best drivers take the lead overnight heading into third Saturday day.
Kalle had his race campaign effectively stitched up when Sebastian Ogier punctured on the second pass of the Kedong speed test.
The Finn took his third stage victory of the day at Kedong 2 where Ogier returned to 8th at the wheel of a GR Yaris Rally1.
Kalle ended his day with a 22.4 second advantage over Elfyn Evans while Ott Tanak settled for third place, 25.3 seconds behind the leader.
Kalle was all smiles: “It’s such a good day at the office. The first two stages weren’t so bad, I really enjoyed this part of the course. But Kedong’s last test was really tough. Fortunately, we made no mistake. The most important thing at the moment is that the car is there and that we are there, so I’m happy.
After a sublime run in Thursday’s Kasarani Super Special, Ogier won the day’s opening stage on Loldia 1. But he lost the lead to teammate Toyota Elfyn when he timed the fourth fastest during the first Geothermal pass.
The eight-time champion (Ogier) regained the lead on Loldia2 where he beat Takamoto Katsuta by 4.6 seconds to win the stage.
On a sad note, earlier in the morning Ogier’s namesake, Sebastien Loeb, became the event’s first casualty after engine trouble in his Puma Rally1.
Loeb’s teammates Adrien Fourmaux and Craig Breen have also retired, dealing a blow to M-Sport in their pursuit of the coveted Safari title.
Loeb retired on the road section after Kedong 1 and will incur a 10-minute penalty for each stage missed in the second loop if his M-Sport mechanics manage to repair the damage well in time for tomorrow.
“It’s over for today. Tomorrow we’re not really sure whether we can fix it and restart the rally. But we’ll decide what to do later today after seeing what we broke in the car.”
“I finished the stage but the car stopped just 5km from the end of the section as we headed into the first serve,” Loeb said.
After a 5th place overall in 2002, Loeb has definitely jeopardized his early Safari aspirations. This means he has no realistic chance of catching the favorites when penalty dynamics occur.
Loeb had just completed the 31km Kedong stage when smoke was seen under the hood and was forced to pull over to the side of the road.
- #69 (FIN) K. ROVANPERÄ (GR Yaris Rally1) 1:20:58.1
- #33 (GBR) E. EVANS (GR Yaris Rally1) 1:21:20.5
- #8 (EST) O. TÄNAK (i20 N Rally1) 1:21:23.4
- #18 (JPN) T.KATSUTA (GR Yaris Rally1) 1:21:24.7
- #11 (BEL) T. NEUVILLE (i20 N Rally1I) 1:21:55.6
- #1 (FRA) S. OGIER (GR Yaris Rally1) 1:23:06.3
- #2 (SWE) O. SOLBERG (i20 N Rally1) 1:25:25.2
- #20 (POL) K. KAJETANOWICZ ( Fabia Evo) 1:30:49.2
- #42 (IRL) C. BREEN (Puma Rally1) 1:31:22.7
- #22 (USA) S. JOHNSTON 1:32:02.7