Kalle Rovanperä has vaulted from fourth to first to lead Safari Rally Kenya overnight as erstwhile leader Sébastien Ogier stopped to change a tire and Craig Breen retired.
Kedong had thrown a major spanner in the works earlier on Friday morning, as no less than five cars either ran into problems or retired.
The deep sections of fesh-fesh in particular caused some real strife, but Ogier and Breen ran into their problems elsewhere on the stage.
Ogier punctured early and therefore had to stop and change the wheel, dropping over two minutes and down from first to sixth in the process.
Breen meanwhile stopped near the start of the stage in his M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1 before getting back under way again. But Breen failed to make the end of the stage as his car was spat off the road on a straight with what looked to be broken steering.
He had been sixth overall, but it means none of the manufacturer-nominated M-Sport cars made it through Friday as Sébastien Loeb and Adrien Fourmaux both also retired earlier in the day.
Takamoto Katsuta was another to lose time on Kedong – a stage he said he really didn’t want to go back to after the first pass.
The Toyota Next Generation driver had been second overall before SS7 but slipped to fourth after being caught up behind Breen’s Puma.
“Already in the beginning we had a lot of dust from Craig and some corner I couldn’t see anything because of the forest and dust stayed there, and there were big rocks on the straight where Craig went off and I had to almost stop,” Katsuta described.
“Hopefully we can get some time back, if we don’t get it it’s not fair. So hopefully we can get something.”
Rovanperä felt he “had no power” for the first part of the stage but that’s of little concern given he was again quickest on Kedong, just as he had been the first time round.
His overnight lead is provisionally 22.4 seconds over Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans who simply backed off in order to make it through the daunting stage.
“It’s just so extreme,” Evans said. “I was careful, I was sure it would be a car graveyard in there so from my side I just had to make it through.”
The 2022 season has been one of herculean efforts in the face of adversity for Thierry Neuville, and the first example of this on the Safari occurred on the second pass of Kedong.
Dust infiltrated the cockpit of his Hyundai halfway through the stage, and then the front-left tire detached itself from the rim for the last few miles.
But despite this adversity – Neuville growing a dust moustache and coughing at stage end – he only dropped 3.6s to Rovanperä and was quicker than team-mate Tänak as well.
Tänak’s co-driver, Martin Järveoja, was bizarrely seen with a spare air filter between his legs in the footwell, but when asked about it at stage-end Tänak was his usual clever and cagey self: “It’s a marketing trick!” he said.
Despite his gearstick problems earlier in the day, Tänak is now up to third place overall such has been the attrition.
Neuville is fifth, 1m10.7s up on Ogier while the third Hyundai of Oliver Solberg is seventh.
“It’s absolutely mad, absolutely mad!” Solberg said, sounding very much like his 2003 world champion father Petter.
“I’m just very happy to be through because it’s been a terrible day, to be honest.”
Gus Greensmith’s Puma was the only works example to make it to the end of Friday, but he lies behind Breen who is ninth on the leaderboard under restart rules.
Privateer Ford entrant Jourdan Serderidis is also ahead of Greensmith in 11th, while WRC2 leader Kajetan Kajetanowicz lies eighth overall.