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WRC Rally Kenya

WRC Safari Rally: Tanak pips Ogier by 0.1s to claim early lead 

Ott Tanak set the pace in the opening super special stage to claim an early World Rally Championship Safari Rally lead over Toyota’s Sebastien Ogier.

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

The 70th anniversary Safari Rally kicked off with a 4.48km head-to-head super special stage, lined by thousands of fans in the centre of Nairobi.

Tanak won his duel with Toyota’s Elfyn Evans by 3.3s with his effort emerging the fastest once all the head-to-heads were completed.

"[Safari Rally Kenya is] a demanding one. Let's see after Saturday. I would say this day will tell us a lot,” said Tanak after the stage win.

Toyota’s part-time WRC driver Ogier managed to see off Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi in his contest to the tune of 3.9s. The Frenchman’s effort came closest in toppling Tanak, crossing the finish line, 0.1s adrift.

Asked for his thoughts on the challenge ahead this weekend, Ogier said: “I need some Kenyan gods this weekend to help me. Luck will be needed.”

Championship leader and last year’s Safari winner Kalle Rovanpera was involved in one of the tightest head-to-heads as the Finn pipped Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville by 0.3s,. Rovanpera’s time was good enough for third overall, some 2.4s shy of stage winner Tanak.

“Let's try to do the same as last year, said Rovanpera. “We just need to be steady and keep a good pace. 

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

“At least the start was better," he added, referring to his almost roll in the same stage last year.

Neuville will head into Friday’s stages sitting fourth, 0.6s ahead of Evans, while Lappi’s effort put the Safari debutant in sixth.

After surviving a roll in shakedown yesterday, Takamoto Katsuta, in his repaired Toyota GR Yaris, edged Hyundai’s Dani Sordo to seventh overall, but the Spanish driver was given a 10-second penalty for a jump start which has relegated him to 16th place.

The top 10 was completed by M-Sport’s Pierre-Louis LoubetOliver Solberg - the lead WRC2 runner - and Jourdan Serderidis

The rally heads north of Nairobi to host city Naivasha on Friday, where crews will undertake six gravel stages.

Drivers expect these stages to be the smoothest of the rally before tackling much rougher sections of road on Saturday.

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