Safari Rally – Hyundai leads early after Kasarani Super Special;  Toyota follows, Ford a distant P7

Safari Rally – Hyundai leads early after Kasarani Super Special; Toyota follows, Ford a distant P7

FIA World Championship leader Thierry Neuville took a slim lead of 0.1 seconds over Hyundai teammate Ott Tänak after winning the opening stage of the FIA WRC-Safari Rally Kenya Thursday. Thousands of enthusiastic fans competed in everything possible as this 71st edition of the Safari Rally began on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital. It was followed by glittering celebrations in the city of Nairobi, which were attended by President William Ruto.

Thierry Neuville, who leads the FIA ​​WRC by three points, beat his i20 N partner Ott Tänak by one tenth in the opening 4.84km, with reigning champion Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota Yaris) completing the top three by just 0.7 seconds. behind.

Having failed to finish twice in Kenya after three previous attempts, Neuville is well aware that things will get tougher from Friday. “It will be a challenging event,” confirmed the enthusiastic Belgian. “We are keeping our fingers crossed that we can endure this time without any technical problems or mistakes. I think we are well prepared and I feel good in the car, so it is good to start a meeting like this.”

FIA WRC Safari_Rally_2024 Toyota Photo 2

Africa was home to two of Takamoto Katsuta’s four WRC podiums. Driving the same Toyota GR Yaris as Rovanperä, he was just 0.9 seconds behind, setting the fourth fastest time, ahead of Hyundai rival Esapekka Lappi.

Elfin Evans, currently second in the points standings, was sixth in his Toyota, with M-Sport Ford Puma youngster Adrien Fourmaux close behind. Gus Greensmith set the pace in WRC2, finishing eighth overall in the Škoda Fabia RS, with Grégoire Munster and Oliver Solberg completing the Top 10.

Action will resume on Friday morning at 8:15 am local time for the first of six stages of the day. The biggest challenge will be the 31.50km Kedong stage, which is the end of the morning and afternoon circuits.

FIA WRC Safari_Rally_2024 Photo 3

The winner of the day Thierry Neuville said at the beginning: “The main challenge this year will be the weather; The event moving to March makes it a bit of a lottery with the amount of rain we expect to encounter. Depending on when the rain starts, our position on the road can be an advantage or a disadvantage; we can drain the puddles or walk through them once they have been cleaned. We really need the car to be reliable in Kenya – that’s the main thing we rely on when things are unpredictable. The car doesn’t have to be the fastest, but it has to be able to withstand the tough conditions we experience during the action. It’s not my favorite event, but it’s an event to share. It can be brutal, but it’s always exciting. After four top-three finishes in 2023, including a stage win, we want to go one step further this year and run a clean rally.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC Team Principal) before the start: “Our team is very happy to be here in Kenya and participate in the Safari Rally. We’ve seen that normalcy in how hard everyone is working to get everything ready, despite some scheduling challenges, and we’re looking forward to the rest of the weekend. I watched the first stage and it is a very interesting stage to start this meeting with fast corners and a good number of spectators. Our cars looked good, I saw our drivers pushing each other and the times were very close. It’s good to be within two seconds of the lead with all three cars, and this is a rally that is usually won by a wide margin. Yesterday I rode with Elfin during the shakedown and it was a good feeling, and good to see how our car handled the bumps.”

Standings after the first day of the FIA ​​​​WRC_Safari Rally 2024 (Thursday):
1 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) 3m19.9s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +0.1s
3 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +0.8s
4 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +0.9s
5 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +1.5s
6 Elfin Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1.7s
7 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +2.2s
8 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +6.6s
9 Grégoire Munster/Louis Louka (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +8.6s
10 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +9.4s

FIA WRC Safari_Rally_2024 Photo 4

FIA WRC Safari_Rally_2024 Photo 5

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FIA WRC Safari_Rally_2024 schedule Image 7

FIA WRC Safari_Rally_2024 event poster

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