Neuville leads Safari Rally as big guns suffer


Neuville leads Safari Rally as big guns suffer
Sebastien Ogier navigated by Julien Ingrassia driving Toyota Yaris during the WRC Safari Rally Kenya shakedown at Loldia in Naivasha on June 23, 2021. (PHOTO/Evans Odari/Sportpicha)

In Summary

  • Thierry Neuville steered clear of trouble to end day two of the WRC Safari Rally in the lead, as big guns were decimated by a menacing Kedong stage with a number of them bowing out of competition altogether
  • Japan’s Takamoto Katsuta came 18.8 seconds further back for second thanks to a blistering finish that saw him edge Ott Tanak who completed the top three places

Thierry Neuville steered clear of trouble to end day two of the WRC Safari Rally in the lead, as big guns were decimated by a menacing Kedong stage with a number of them bowing out of competition altogether.

Japan’s Takamoto Katsuta came 18.8 seconds further back for second thanks to a blistering finish that saw him edge Ott Tanak with the Estonian completing the top three places.

Championship leader Sebastian Ogier was 1min 49.4sec off the lead in fourth after suffering heavy time losses in the morning. He won the opening Super Special stage in Kasarani on Thursday.

A promising run shown by Welshman Elfyn Evans was brutally cut short in the 3rd stage, at the challenging Kedong, as he crashed out with less than 300m to go.

This would prove the end of the road for Evans who had shown glimpse of pace in the 2nd by finishing fourth.

He however wasn’t the only retiree in this stage, as 19-year old Swedish sensation Oliver Solberg bowed out of the Safari after damaging his Hyundai i20’ chasis. He was nearly in tears as he took to twitter to express his disappointment in bowing out of the Safari so early.

“Today we learnt that it’s not just the lions that bite at the Safari Rally, but it’s the stages too. It was a very, very difficult start to the day on SS2, and we got some damage which we tried to repair on the road section. We tried our best but sadly we couldn’t really fix it – we did manage to slowly finish SS3 and SS4 and kept trying to fix it until it was impossible, but the damage to the chassis is too much and unfortunately our Safari Rally experience is over too soon.”

Despite the earlier developments throwing caution in the wind more drivers found themselves at the receiving end of the unforgiving rocky and sandy roads.

Toyota’s Takamoto Kasutsa had an experience he will never forget if his words after the seventh stage were anything to go by.

“That’s a surprise to finish second in that stage. I was almost four times stopped on the stage. I never use wiper before other than rain and not for dust. Ruts are like hell. I am happy to finish this stage.”

Dust was too much in the seventh stage that Kalle Ravenpore retired after getting stuck deep in the fesh-fesh as the final stage drama continued. The Finn was towed off the special and the stage was stopped while his Toyota Yaris was moved. He was able to continue without time penalties, as per a bulletin explaining that towing on the Safari was not classed as outside assistance but his crew opted not to continue and would incur 10 minutes of penalties later on for not completing the last stage.

Gus Greensmith could only empathize with his rival.

“Going up that hill I feel for Kalle. You get there and can’t see anything. I had the hindsight of knowing what happened to him. I just put the wipers on and went for it.”

Onkar Rai, driving a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, had a fantastic day as he sailed from 5th in S1, to leading the charts in the WRC3 with a comfortable a 2min 55.1sec advantage

Rai drove a stunning 2nd and 3rd stage as he steered clear of Carl Flash Tundo who crashed his Polo later in the day.

Rai was delighted to be in the top ten of a WRC Safari rally and set his eyes on completing the event.

“It’s a dream come true, I never imagined I would be in the top 10 of a WRC rally. Obviously we want to go to the end, there’s still a massive way to go,”

“Once the big cars go through, it’s almost undriveable in places. But again, it’s Safari, and it’s the same for everyone. I’m just happy that the big boys are back,”

However things didn’t turn out so well for his elder brother Tejveer Rai who crashed in the 3rd stage.

More drama await in the Lake Elementaita, Soysambu and Sleeping warrior stages as Safari rally enters day three tomorrow.

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Story By Alex Kinyua
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