Rovanpera sets pace for Rally
Finish driver Kalle Rovanpera co-driven by Jonne Halttunen in a Toyota GR Yaris, clocked the fastest time during yesterday’s shakedown in a time of 3:42.1 as drivers got acclimatised to the classic African roads.
The FIA World Rally Championship leader narrowly beat his nearest title challenger Thierry Neuville who is driving a Hyundai i20 N, by five-tenths of a second through the 5.40km Loldia warm-up, overlooking the picturesque Lake Naivasha. Sébastien Loeb was 1.3sec further back in an M-Sport Ford Puma as the driver with the third-best time.
While the stage was representative of the punishing broken tests that competitors will face over the next few days, conditions remained dry and dusty. With thunderstorms predicted later this week, the roads could very quickly turn into treacherous mud baths.
Last year’s Safari winner Sébastien Ogier was the fastest out of the blocks with his GR Yaris before team-mate Rovanperä posted the benchmark time on his second run.
The Finn, like many of the drivers, believes conditions will be even more challenging than in 2021.
“It seems that the rally will be even tougher this year,” he noted. “I was not expecting such rough conditions as we saw on the recce and the roads are even softer than last year.
“I think, in some places, it might be good to be the first car on the road here. Of course, we will have some cleaning in some sections, but that is not the biggest place where you can lose time here.
“We had rain on one stage in the recce, but the road didn’t really get wet for us. Everybody says that [if it rains] it’s extremely slippery, and I have seen some onboards. It’s crazy when it gets wet, so I don’t really know what to expect,” he added.
Rally Italia Sardegna winner Ott Tänak matched Loeb’s pace to claim fourth in a Hyundai, with Ogier eventually finishing just four-tenths further back in fifth.
Takamoto Katsuta and Elfyn Evans brought their Yaris cars home in sixth and seventh, while Puma stars Gus Greensmith, Adrien Fourmaux and Craig Breen rounded off the leaderboard.