Neuville loses Safari podium place with technical issue

More reliability woes struck Hyundai on Saturday afternoon in Kenya

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Thierry Neuville’s hopes of a podium on Safari Rally Kenya are in jeopardy, after an apparent fuel pump issue dropped the Hyundai driver from second to fifth place overall.

Problems began aboard the i20 N Rally1 halfway through the second pass of Soysambu, when Neuville’s car ground to a halt.

While changing settings in the center of the car, co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe was heard saying: “emergency fuel pump,” followed by the car firing up again and getting back underway.

But there were two further instances of the car running out of internal combustion power and stalling, with Neuville eventually turning the car on in EV-only mode for the last mile of the stage to reach the finish.

“I don’t know,” said Neuville. “I have nothing to say. I have absolutely nothing to say.”

After a brief stop just beyond the finish line of Soysambu, Neuville was able to fire up the engine and proceed towards the next stage.

In all Neuville lost 2m38.7s relative to stage winner Takamoto Katsuta, who inherits the second place he’d lost to the Belgian earlier in the day.

Adrien Fourmaux, one of the few drivers without a single puncture or technical drama to speak of thus far, has moved into the final podium position. M-Sport’s team leader has a 45.6s advantage over Elfyn Evans, who is fourth.

There’s still hope for Neuville to recover; he’s only 20.2s behind Evans despite his Soysambu drama.

Neuville’s Hyundai wasn’t the only one malfunctioning on stage 11 either. Ott Tänak, down in 12th after his Friday retirement, was struggling to see as dust filled the cockpit of his car – the sliding element inside his window was opening mid-stage.

Two stages remain for the WRC crews today, where the first batch of points will be awarded, subject to drivers finishing the rally on Sunday. Kalle Rovanperä remains the rally leader with a comfortable 2m20s advantage over Katsuta.

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