Kalle Rovanperä won Rally Kenya on Sunday, his first success in this event and his fourth in six rallies this season. The Finn, already leader of the Championship on arriving in Africa, now has a 65-point lead over Thierry Neuville (Hyundai), only fifth but winner of the Power Stage.
After a missed Sardinia rally (no car in the top 4), Toyota’s domination was total this time since the leading quartet is made up solely of GR Yaris Rally1. Four similar cars in the lead, this had not been seen since Bulgaria in 2010 (with Citroën C4 WRCs and a victory for Sébastien Loeb). Toyota had achieved such a performance once in 1993, already at the Safari Rally, with Celica and Juha Kankkunen as winners.
Competition far from Toyota
Elfyn Evans, in contact with Rovanperä on Friday evening but dominated on the rest of the rally, and Takamoto Katsuta, already 2nd last year here, complete the podium (the first since Germany in 2019 with a single make) while Sébastien Ogier takes fourth place. As a wink, the eight-time world champion, who lost all chance of victory with an unlucky puncture on Friday, was already in this place in Bulgaria in 2010. He won four stages, only Rovanperä (5) doing better on the weekend.
Then you have to go back ten minutes to find a competitor who is not driving a Toyota. Unable to finish the day on Saturday with a car that was too badly damaged in the terrible conditions (after the rain) of Sleeping Warriors, Thierry Neuville “saved” a fifth place and the 5 points of the Power Stage. Despite all his efforts, the gap in the Championship continues to grow with Rovanperä before going to Estonia and Finland on the types of terrain that the latter has been frequenting for years despite his young age (21).
Three special victories for Loeb
For Hyundai, after the good performance in Sardinia, the conclusion is bitter: the i20 Rally1 is too fragile to hope to compete on a terrain as complicated as Kenya. The proof, Ott Tänak could not even finish the test (transmission on Saturday then power steering on Sunday) and Oliver Solberg regularly dragged his sentence at reduced speed. On Sunday, he even had the first special of the day canceled after crashing in the middle of the track, only reaching the end to bring a few points in the Constructors’ Championship to the Korean brand.
At M-Sport Ford, it’s also grimace soup with sixth place for Craig Breen, driving a very diminished Puma on Saturday, and Sébastien Loeb’s 8th. With the start of a fire on his car on Friday, the Frenchman quickly lost all hope of victory. He still finished the weekend with three stage wins, showing he had the speed to hope for more, and added four points for M-Sport with his second place finish in the Power Stage.
His young teammates Adrien Fourmaux and Gus Greensmith have themselves been signaled by new avoidable errors. They finished very far overall and will especially remember having spent time with their mechanics repairing their bikes on Saturday afternoon before returning to the track on Sunday for the honor.
Finally, note the seventh place of the Greek private driver Jourdan Serderidis with a Ford Puma Rally1 who, despite a pace very far from the best, can show the satisfaction of not having used the “Super Rally” to complete this event. A performance that only the four Toyotas and to a lesser extent Oliver Solberg (who missed his departure times several times to repair various breakages) achieved.