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Stage report
WRC Rally Kenya

WRC Safari Rally: Rovanpera puts pressure on Ogier to set up grandstand finish

Safari Rally Kenya is set for a grandstand finish after Kalle Rovanpera further reduced Sebastien Ogier’s lead during a dramatic final morning of the World Rally Championship event. 

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

The Toyota duo continued an enthralling head-to-head as championship leader Rovanpera applied pressure on long-time leader Ogier to reduce the gap to 13.6s with three stages remaining. 

Elfyn Evans remained on course to claim the final podium position despite a small scare. The Welshman headed to service 2m49.5s adrift and 35.7s ahead of Toyota team-mate Takamoto Katsuta.

Dani Sordo completed the loop as the leading Hyundai in fifth (+4m51.0s), ahead of M-Sport duo Ott Tanak (+8m56.8s) and Pierre-Louis Loubet (+15m09.5s). The top 10 was completed by leading WRC2 runner Kajetan Kajetanowicz (+23m49.0s), Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, (+24m35.4s) and Oliver Solberg (+25m57.5s).

Rovanpera stated on Saturday that his main focus was securing points for his championship bid rather than thinking about victory.

However, come Sunday morning the Finn produced a blistering effort in the opening stage, held in dry conditions, to halve Ogier’s rally lead to 8.6s.

Rovanpera navigated through the roughest stage of the rally an impressive 8.1s faster than Ogier which surprised the Frenchman. 

"For someone playing the championship, it was a nice talk,” said Ogier when referring to Rovanpera’s pace. "There are huge rocks everywhere on the road and I had to nearly stop because there was a massive rock in the line. No worries.”

Katsuta was third-fastest ahead of M-Sport’s Tanak, who joked that he had a “proper headache” afterwards due the rough roads..

Katsuta’s effort allowed the Japanese driver to close to within 11.4s of third-placed Evans, who suffered a half spin in the stage and damaged his GR Yaris’ rear wing. 

In the Hyundai camp there were further woes as the returning Lappi, who retired from third yesterday due to a prop shaft failure, suffered a fourth suspected prop shaft failure of the weekend. The Finn managed to navigate through the stage but with only two-wheel-drive.

Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Toyota Racing

The dramatic battle at the front continued into stage 15 where Ogier produced a heroic response despite being compromised with damage to the rear of his GR Yaris. 

Ogier slid wide in deep sand at a right-hander and clipped a tree which removed the entire spoiler and tailgate. Despite the damage, he blitzed the 18.33km test to beat Rovanpera by 8.6s to extend his lead back out to 17.2s.

"I just clipped a little bit a tree and I am very surprised to be honest. I didn't expect that,” said Ogier.

Tanak was the best of the rest, clocking the third best time while Evans increased his gap over Katsuta in the fight for the final podium.

Lappi’s wounded Hyundai was able to trundle to the finish but such was his lack of pace he had to pull over to let team-mate Neuville pass.

The final stage of the loop, the first pass of what will be the rally-ending Power Stage, was won by Tanak, who pipped Neuville by 0.6s. 

Rovanpera managed to apply more pressure on the wingless Ogier by taking 3.6s but the Finn wasn’t happy with set-up of his GR Yaris. 

“I am not feeling good in the car, I am fighting way too much all the time. Especially here it doesn't work out, I am oversteering way too much,” said Rovanpera.

Sordo was forced to wrestle his Hyundai through the stage after losing the power steering on his i20 N, while Lappi continued to battle on with his problem.

The crews will face three more stages later today. 

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Previous article Rovanpera’s main focus on WRC title bid, not beating Ogier to Safari win
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