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Ogier tops tight Safari opener

Friday, June 25th, 2021 00:00 | By
Sohanjeet Singh Puee with his navigator Adnan Din power their Mitsubishi Evo X at the Super Special Stage in Kasarani on the first day of the WRC Safari Rally yesterday. Photo/NELSON JEREMY

Edwin Otieno

Multiple world rally champion Sébastien Ogier has took an early lead in the WRC Safari Rally Kenya following a ‘fast and furious’ Thursday afternoon Super Special Stage at Kasarani Stadium.

Yesterday’s tight run saw the top three drivers blanketed by less than a second at a thrilling opener of the mythical event in Nairobi.  

Family connection was manifest on the opening day as the leader ran 0.3sec faster than Toyota Yaris teammate Kalle Rovanperä in the curtain-raising 4.84km Super Special Stage.

Rovanperä, whose father Harri finished second in the 2002 edition of the Safari, will be hoping to emulate his dad’s performance 19 years later.

Britain’s Elfyn Evans completed a Toyota Gazoo Racing clean sweep of the top three. The Welshman cleared the twin track stage a further 0.4sec back.  

Ogier and Ott Tänak went head-to-head in the final frontline heat around the sweeping curves and jumps of the purpose-built track in front of an excited large crowd.

Kicking up huge plumes of dust, Ogier beat the Hyundai i20 driver by 2.5sec.   

“Today is going to be the real start. It has been amazing to see so much crowd.

Today some tough stuff is coming,” warned the Frenchman at the stage finish as he eyed the punishing rocky roads to come.

Rovanperä, whose father, Harri, twice finished second on the gruelling Safari, was a clear winner over Hyundai’s Dani Sordo.

Evans came out on top against Thierry Neuville, who conceded a few seconds after running his i20 wide.

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