Rovanpera wins WRC Safari Rally

Monday, June 27th, 2022 02:55 | By
Finnish rally driver Kalle Rovanperä with co-driver Jonne Halttunen pop champgane to celebrate their win of WRC Safari Rally at Naivasha. PD/PHILIP KAMAKYA

Championship leader Kalle Rovanperä stamped his authority once more as he maintained a three-day lead to win the World Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally championships in Naivasha. 

It was Rovanpera’s fourth FIA WRC victory in five rounds as Toyota Gazoo Racing secured all the top four places at the Naivasha event. 

The Finnish star, who was co-driven by compatriot Jonne Halttunen, overcame sickness, heavy mud on the third day and rocky gravel tracks in the Great Rift Valley to win the African fixture by 52.8second in a Toyota GR Yaris Rally1. The victory extended his lead in the drivers’ standings to 65 points. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta who graced the prize-giving ceremony congratulated the winner and tipped him for a greater future. 

Briton Elfyn Evans finished second, 49.9sec clear of Japanese Takamoto Katsuta, with Sébastien Ogier finishing fourth. It was Toyota’s first 1-2-3-4 since 1993 in Kenya and the first in the WRC for 12 years. 

“It feels great! I have to say, this was the hardest rally I have ever done and to be honest we just have to thank the team. To have four cars like this with no issues - it is clearly the strongest and fastest car at the moment. The team did a fantastic job,” Rovanpera said after his win. 

Incredible job

Katsuta who managed a second Safari Rally podium finish said: “I want to thank the team. Everybody did an incredible job after Portugal and Sardinia to develop the car so strong. It was a very tough weekend. Okay, we had issues, but the car was strong. This is Aaron’s first podium and he has been such a big support.” 

Belgian international Thierry Neuville navigated by Martijn Wydaeghe in a Hyundai i20N won the Wolf Power Stage to claim five bonus points. 

“I don’t have much to say. The situation is very obvious, so I am really disappointed. I am disappointed for our mechanics as well because they are working hard, but they don’t get any return, let’s hope the next leg in Estonia will be better,” Neuville said. 

Sébastien Loeb scored four in second in a Ford Puma with Ogier taking three in third. Gus Greensmith secured two points in fourth in another Puma with team-mate Adrien Fourmaux netting one. 

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