Neuville gains second on Safari after Toyota troubles

Punctures for Toyota pair put a third consecutive Safari podium lockout in doubt


Kalle Rovanperä continues to lead Safari Rally Kenya but it was all action behind the world champion, with his Toyota team-mates Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta both running into trouble on Saturday morning.

Soysambu proved a rough wake-up call for several crews, foremost of whom was Evans. Toyota’s main contender for the drivers’ championship picked up a rear-left puncture which he stopped to change, dropping almost two minutes.

Two stages later, on Sleeping Warrior, it was Katsuta’s turn to suffer, though in his case he kept driving on a front-right puncture and lost a minute. It was also self-inflicted – he hit a rock in what he described as a “big mistake.”

Those dramas have allowed Thierry Neuville, the only Hyundai not to retire on Friday, to move up to second place – though he didn’t get through Sleeping Warrior unscathed either.

“Just before the finish, we drove over a stone and bent something, so the car was a bit difficult to drive towards the end,” said Neuville.

To compound Evans’ misery he got another puncture on Sleeping Warrior, losing a further 30 seconds: “We were trying to be smooth and slow but difficult to make it through, I guess,” he said.

Katsuta is now 55s behind Neuville in third place, while Adrien Fourmaux inherited fourth. The lead M-Sport driver was one of the few to have a clean Saturday morning loop.

Evans’ second puncture meant he fell further behind the pack, trailing the French Puma by 53.2s heading to midday service.

M-Sport is down to two cars after Grégoire Munster retired on the road section between Soysambu and Elmenteita. He clipped a rock hidden in a bush, breaking the left-rear driveshaft and links.

Munster limped through much of Soysambu and made it to the end, then attempted a roadside fix. But his efforts went unrewarded: he ran out of time and retired from the day.

Ott Tänak and Esapekka Lappi returned under superally on Saturday morning but both had difficulties. Tänak indicated there were several problems with his i20 N Rally1 but wouldn’t elaborate fully; what was known is his intercom failed on Elmenteita, leaving Martin Järveoja to use hand signals. Both Hyundais suffered punctures on Sleeping Warrior.

Gus Greensmith is sixth overall leads WRC2, though lost 37.2s on Soysambu due to a puncture. He is still feeling unwell but pressing on regardless.

“It’s not great but what made it worse was the roughness,” said Greensmith. “The washers are not pointing in the right direction so I couldn’t clean the screen to see anything.”

Jourdan Serderidis is wedged in between the leading WRC2 contenders in seventh overall, with Oliver Solberg 21.5s behind the Ford Puma driver in eighth.

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Oliver Solberg is catching Greensmith – but securing WRC2 points is his priority

Solberg is on a charge after stopping to change two punctures on Friday. He beat Greensmith by 41.5s on Sleeping Warrior, cutting his Toksport team-mate’s class lead to 2m22s.

“In one way, you push a little bit because you never know what can happen in front,” said Solberg. “But I also have a good second place I have to take care of for the championship. With the bad luck yesterday second place is where I’m happy now. We’ll see what happens in front.”