The first loop of Friday’s stage has already brought its share of twists and turns to Rally Kenya. In particular the last special, Kedong, the longest of the rally with 31.25 km as difficult for the drivers as the mechanics. She was not kind to Sébastien Loeb. In the rhythm so far, the M-Sport Ford driver first conceded almost thirty seconds to Kalle Rovanperä, author of his second scratch time. The Frenchman had “lost” himself in his own dust in the heart of an extremely sandy area.
“I didn’t know where to go. I had to wait for the dust to settle before I could leave again”, explained the one who had won the first special of the morning. Worse, the nine-time world champion remained immobilized after the arrival of the last timed sector. A small fire broke out at the level of the engine and he then only had electrical energy, insufficient to return to the next grouping… A twist of fate synonymous with abandonment.
“A few meters after the finish, we stopped to put away the helmets and the engine stopped by itself. Tried to restart with no luck and there was something burning right behind the engine”he explained to the DirtFish site, while he was next to his immobilized Puma.
After Portugal (exit from the road), it is the second time in a row that he has been forced to retire on the Friday morning of a WRC rally.
Rovanperä big winner of the morning
Ogier gave up the rally lead on this fourth special after losing 20 seconds on Rovanperä. The Toyota driver announced that he had a power problem, probably due to the presence of sand in the air filters. Despite everything, he remains second in the general classification behind his teammate Elfyn Evans (+8”5).
The big winner of this morning is Rovanperä. The Championship leader, who opened the way, moved up to third place (+11”1), gaining five places at Kedong alone. If he hadn’t known about his error in the super-stage on Thursday, he would potentially be the leader.
Hyundai drivers not spared
Gus Greensmith had a nightmare in the final round. Then fourth, the Briton from M-Sport lost all chance of doing well by exploding the right rear tire which then started a fire in his Ford Puma. He was able to repair and start again but lost nearly a quarter of an hour. Problems also for Hyundai: Ott Tänak (7th) broke his gear lever in the first lap while Thierry Neuville and Oliver Solberg finished the last one at idle without any engine power. They are respectively pushed back one and three minutes behind the leader.
Author of a clean race so far, Adrien Fourmaux (Ford Puma) is in eighth position (+31”9). Note the good performance of Takamoto Katsuta, fourth (+15”2, he was on the podium last year) while Craig Breen is sixth.
Finally, many pilots having complained about the conditions in Kedong, the possibility of seeing the second passage in this section canceled or modified cannot be ruled out. “I don’t know if we can go to the 2nd loop, had noted Loeb, before his retirement, about a stretch of fine sand, it was already limit to stay planted for me. » Even Rovanperä, past the first with a track not completely rutted, wondered how it would be possible to get back on track.