Thierry Neuville has stolen third place from Takamoto Katsuta but is rushing to fix suspension damage, while Kalle Rovanperä wiped the floor with everyone as rain began to affect the Safari Rally Kenya stages.
Rain wasn’t falling when drivers started the stage but it had battered the second half of the test, creating something of a mud bath which M-Sport privateer Jourdan Serderidis laughed was like “ice in Kenya”.
“You either try to take a hell of a lot of time or you lose everything,” explained Oliver Solberg.
“I lost probably two to three minutes but I don’t care, it’s crazy, crazy. It’s fun, I love when it’s a challenge but not when I have to lose something.”
Solberg lost 43.6 seconds rather than several minutes, which was more than enough to protect his sixth place.
Hyundai team-mate Neuville adopted the ‘try to take a lot of time’ approach and it paid off for him; Neuville beating Katsuta by some 15.9s to leap into third spot by 5.7s.
Katsuta’s run by comparison wasn’t clean: “It was completely muddy in one corner and I just went straight, that was a big surprise and quite strange but OK we are here.”
But trouble was brewing for Neuville. He rapidly departed the finish line time control and set to work repairing his suspension on the road section between Elmenteita and Sleeping Warrior.
Neuville’s stage time was paltry compared to the time rally and championship leader Rovanperä managed to put down.
The Toyota driver smashed Neuville’s time by 11.2s – beating his closest rival Elfyn Evans by 11.3s – to extend his lead to 27.1s. And that’s despite him saying he has been feeling sick since midday service.
“It just felt that I was quite neat and tidy on the mud,” Rovanperä said in his typically understated fashion.
“Yeah, not too bad! I don’t know why it’s such a fast time but otherwise all good.”
Craig Breen has been shipping time hand over fist all day but his time loss – over a minute – on SS12 indicated there was something amiss.
“We have a small issue that we should be able to carry on through into the next stage, it shouldn’t be any drama but not ideal,” Breen confirmed.