WRC - Rovanperä secures commanding victory at Safari Rally, Greensmith wins WRC2


2024 Safari Rally Kenya - Sunday

Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen became two-time winners of Safari Rally Kenya on Sunday afternoon, ending the gruelling African fixture with a 1m 37.8s victory margin having led since Friday morning.

In by far the most gruelling FIA World Rally Championship round so far this season, it was Rovanperä’s meticulous balance of both speed and maturity that ultimately secured his 12th career victory.

The Finn, along with his navigator Halttunen, built a lead of almost one minute after winning all of Friday’s rock-strewn stages around Lake Naivasha, then kept his nose clean to end Saturday two minutes clear as the chasing pack ran into mechanical troubles and tyre damage.

That buffer allowed the two-time WRC champion to drive for a finish in Sunday’s final leg, which culminated amid stunning scenery at Hell's Gate with Kenyan President William Ruto in attendance.

Takamoto Katstuta completed a Toyota GR Yaris 1-2 as the Japanese marque extended its manufacturers’ championship lead to four points over Hyundai Motorsport, while M-Sport Ford Puma hotshot Adrien Fourmaux bagged his second consecutive podium 47.3s behind.

“It’s always special to win here,” Rovanperä beamed. “Also, a legendary event for Toyota. We’ve always been so good here and that’s continuing. Like they say in Africa: the car in front is always a Toyota!*

“A big thanks to the team, everybody made a big effort to make the car work so well. I think me and Jonne did a good job, I don’t think you can have a better Safari Rally than we did. No issues, clever driving and I think it was a good effort.”

Elfyn Evans ended Friday in contention for a podium but a fraught Saturday, which saw the Welshman stop twice to carry out stage-side wheel changes, meant he finished over four minutes back from his team-mate Rovanperä in fourth overall. He remains second in the drivers’ championship behind leader Thierry Neuville, who trailed him by almost six minutes in fifth.

Neuville now heads Evans by six points but endured a troublesome week aboard his Hyundai i20 N. Fuel pressure problems on Saturday cost the Belgian several minutes and suspension damage on Sunday, inflicted by a rock on the racing line, added insult to injury. His colleagues, Esapekka Lappi and Ott Tänak fared worse.

Lappi’s problems included two broken gearboxes over the course of the week while Tänak could only climb back to eighth overall after his car sustained broken suspension on Friday.

Greensmith’s determination bears fruit with Safari WRC2 triumph

In 9th overall, Gus Greensmith, co-driven by Jonas Andersson, got his WRC2 campaign off to the perfect start after winning the championship’s premier support category by 1m 23.1 in his Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 for Toksport WRT.

The odds were stacked against the Briton early in the rally. He battled flu-like symptoms through Friday’s opening leg on rough gravel roads around Lake Naivasha but charged to a commanding lead of more than three minutes after his main rival Oliver Solberg haemorrhaged time with punctures.

Solberg fought back to finish second in his similar car, winning 11 of the rally’s 19 stages, but the deficit was ultimately too large to overcome. Greensmith was able to cruise through the closing kilometres, netting a mighty sixth-place overall result in the process.

Solberg posted the fastest time in the Wolf Power Stage, extending his lead in the championship while duly collecting the FORUM8 WRC2 Most Stage Wins Award. He finished more than seven minutes clear of third-placed Fabia man Kajetan Kajetanowicz, who also took the spoils in WRC2 Challenger.

Safari debutants Nicolas Ciamin and Charles Munster placed fourth and fifth respectively, both driving Hyundai i20 N Rally2 cars. Behind them was Daniel Chwist followed by local driver Carl Tundo, winner in the WRC Masters Cup contingent. As the sole finisher, Hamza Anwar secured maximum points in WRC3.

The WRC returns to asphalt for next month's Croatia Rally which takes place from 18 - 21 April. The event is based in capital city Zagreb.