Rovanperä and Neuville joint fastest on Safari shakedown

The Toyota and Hyundai drivers shared the top spot after Wednesday's practise runs


World champion Kalle Rovanperä and points leader Thierry Neuville jointly set the pace on Safari Rally Kenya’s shakedown on Wednesday morning.

Rovanperä, who won the rally two years ago, is seeking to extend Toyota’s Safari streak to four consecutive wins, while Neuville is aiming to secure a first success on the event’s tough terrain for Hyundai.

Contesting the second rally of his part-time program, Rovanperä set a time of 3 minutes 32.1 seconds on his second run through the 3.4-mile test, 0.2s faster than Neuville.

But despite what could be an advantageous road position, depending on the conditions, Rovanperä was keeping his expectations for the weekend in check. “This is a rally where you normally don’t expect too much before the weekend,” he said, “because you never know what’s going to happen. I just want to survive the weekend and see where we are.”


Points leader Neuville set an identical time to Rovanperä on his third shakedown run

Championship leader Neuville gradually built his pace and matched Rovanperä’s time on his third run. “I took it steady to try to understand the car and see where we can improve,” he reported.

Rally Sweden winner Esapekka Lappi’s Hyundai was third fastest, improving to just 0.3s off the pace on his fourth and final run. “I guess we all are a little bit scared what we’re going to face this weekend,” he admitted. “But we try to do our best.”

Rovanperä’s team-mate Elfyn Evans, who is leading Toyota’s drivers’ title hopes this year, was fourth quickest, a second off the pace.

On his approach to the rally, Evans said: “It’s finding that balance between trying to look after the car and going quickly, and on top of that we may get tricky conditions. So a long weekend ahead but of course we’ve got to see what we can do and see what’s possible at the end of it.”


Evans will take a measured approach to his Safari Rally Kenya challenge

The third Hyundai of Ott Tänak was fifth fastest. Tänak had set the pace on the first run, but did not improve as much as his rivals. Like Lappi, he took four runs, with his best time coming on his last attempt, 1.6s slower than the leading pair.

M-Sport driver Adrien Fourmaux was sixth quickest, 1.8s down on Tänak. The leading Rally1 entries were completed by Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta, who was nearly 4s slower than team-mate Rovanperä, and Grégoire Munster (M-Sport) who was 8.7s off the ultimate pace.

Škoda trio Gus Greensmith, Oliver Solberg and Kajetan Kajetanowicz topped the shakedown times in WRC2. Greensmith went 1.2s quicker than Solberg on their second runs, while Kajetanowicz was another 3s back having only completed one run.

The Citroën of Diego Dominguez was the best non- Škoda, his single run nearly 13s down on Greensmith.