Clever tire choice earns Ogier strong Safari lead

The eight-time champion has over 20 seconds in hand over the defending world champion going into Saturday


Sébastien Ogier will carry a 22.8-second lead over Kalle Rovanperä into Saturday’s leg of Safari Rally Kenya on a day that claimed World Rally Championship title contender Thierry Neuville.

Trailing Ott Tänak by just 0.1 seconds heading into Friday, Ogier took the lead from as early as SS2 and never looked back – despite a hybrid issue on the first pass of Kedong in the morning allowing Rovanperä to close to just 2.5s behind.

But some typically supreme driving, coupled to a canny tire choice (carrying just one spare while all of his rivals took two) allowed Ogier to pull over 20s clear with a clean sweep of stage wins across the afternoon.

Second however will suit Rovanperä just fine considering he is ahead of all of his title rivals.

“It’s been a good day – except for this hybrid issue this morning we had a perfect day,” Ogier said, who added he gave “a small kiss” to a tree in a fesh-fesh section.

Toyota currently locks out the podium places with Elfyn Evans’ Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 third overnight, 43.5s off the lead.

Evans had been in a close fight with Hyundai’s Neuville before Neuville exited the competition on the day’s penultimate stage when a compression loosened a bolt on his front-left top mount and ruled him out for the day.

The Welshman survived a moment on the day’s final stage though when he wiped out a small bush, which thankfully didn’t cause any damage.


“I just got completely crossed in these tricky ruts from the mud, I didn’t quite manage to catch it in time so we took out a bush with the front,” Evans described.

Esapekka Lappi is a fine fourth overall on his first ever Safari Rally Kenya, setting strong pace to keep Takamoto Katsuta’s Toyota behind him.

Katsuta had a lively afternoon, suffering a collision with a zebra on SS5 which forced him into pre-stage repairs for the second time on Friday following a broken steering arm in the morning.

Then, on the final stage, a compression kicked Katsuta’s Yaris off-line and through a bush which cracked his windshield, before he also picked up a front-right puncture.

Katsuta, who crashed on Wednesday’s shakedown stage, was therefore relieved to make it to the end of a messy day.

Dani Sordo is a quiet seventh but suffered a bizarre moment in a hairpin where he was “stopped for 10 seconds” caught in his own dust, but he is ahead of the two M-Sport Fords of Ott Tänak and Pierre-Louis Loubet, who have both suffered punctures they had to stop and change on Friday.

Tänak is eighth, over a minute clear of his team-mate, but set a poor time on Friday’s final stage – over 20s off the pace.


There weren’t however any issues to report: “Not even cautious, just our speed!” Tänak said. “I don’t feel comfortable to go faster.”

Loubet had it worse though, stopping for the second time in three stages with another wheel change.

“Unfortunately, we had a puncture again but it’s not a puncture, we broke immediately the wheel which was a bit strange,” Loubet said.

“The first one I felt an impact but this one was a bit strange, but OK.”

Things are at least better for M-Sport in the Rally2 class as Grégoire Munster currently leads Kajetan Kajetanowicz in WRC2, with Martin Prokop in third.

Oliver Solberg had however been the fastest Rally2 car on the stages – and by quite some distance – but retired his Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo just a couple of miles from the end of the day.

Solberg had appeared to pick up some front-right damage which eventually gave way and forced him to stop and retire.