Elfyn Evans has lost the lead of Safari Rally Kenya as his rear-right tire went soft, while Adrien Fourmaux crawled through with a technical problem.
Compared to the drama of Kedong that closed out Friday morning’s loop, the second pass of Loldia was a tame affair.
But Evans and Fourmaux were the big casualties. For Evans the problem was less severe but given the high stakes situation at the head of the field, it was still detrimental.
His rear-right tire began to lose air four miles from the end of the 11.8-mile test. However Evans did well to mitigate the damage, losing just 14.4 seconds to Katsuta
“I think to be honest we’ve probably got away quite lightly with how much we lost there, but not ideal,” said Evans.
Sébastien Ogier, who had lost the rally lead to Evans on the previous stage before service, has therefore moved back to the front – setting fastest time to boot by some 4.3s.
Fourmaux had been eighth overall before SS4 but his Ford Puma Rally1 began making a horrible knocking sound.
He pulled over briefly and then resumed again, but the car was still far from full operating health.
Fourmaux eventually completed the stage but lost over four minutes due to his woes.
“I don’t know, we stopped in the stage to see,” he said. “It looks to be the propshaft or the rear diff, we don’t actually know so we need to have a look on the road section.”
After the dust issues that left Kalle Rovanperä looking like he’d been rolling around in a mud bath on SS4, Toyota has made some changes to all of its GR Yaris Rally1s in service to combat the issue.
A new front grille plate has been fitted on while, inside, some hose ducting has been installed near the roof to help keep any dust away from the drivers’ eyes.
However, none of these changes were enough for Rovanperä to repel the charging Takamoto Katsuta who dumped the Finn off the provisional podium with an SS4 stage time that was 3.5s faster.
That lifted Katsuta 2.2s ahead of Rovanperä and 2s ahead of Evans following his issue, 8.2s off Ogier’s lead.
“You cannot say anything about the podium yet as it’s still day one,” Katsuta cautioned, “but the feeling is good with the car and if you compare to the stage before [Kedong], this was enjoyable!”
Following his gearstick dramas on Friday morning, Ott Tänak had a trouble-free run on Loldia 2 and moved up a position at the expense of M-Sport’s Craig Breen, heading his old team-mate by just 0.1s.
Breen is keeping a steady pace on his first ever Safari Rally Kenya but “had a puncture alarm for six or seven kilometres which was a bit disturbing, but other than that all OK”.
Thierry Neuville is over half a minute down on Breen in seventh place and still not totally happy with the grip available in his Hyundai.
“I’m struggling as well with the driveability of the engine so we’re going to work on the settings and improve, it’s the only thing we can do,” he said.
But Neuville wasn’t as frustrated as team-mate Oliver Solberg who is a galling three minutes off the lead already. “I don’t know what to do!” he said. “I think I drive OK, but I’m still a second per kilometer [away]. The car is so harsh! It’s the roughest ride of my life, in the car not the road.”