Sébastien Ogier’s Safari Rally Kenya lead has been trimmed by just one tenth of a second by his Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans, as Ott Tänak’s temporary repair to his broken gearstick didn’t work as hoped.
Having lost his gearstick on the opening stage, Tänak bodged a temporary solution on the road section before SS3, fitting a wheel brace where the lever once was.
But the Rally Italy winner wasn’t too impressed by his handiwork: “It was not good,” he said.
“The material is so soft it was two gear changes and it was gone again. It’ll be a difficult long stage now.”
Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville also struggled on Friday’s opener but wouldn’t go into too much detail about what his precise problem is at the end of SS3.
“I’m struggling like hell,” he said.
“The car is not driveable in this condition with the cleaning, I have no grip and it doesn’t go where I want to so I have no confidence at all.
“But the rally is long so it’s not so worrying to lose a few seconds here and there.”
Neuville did however lose position, falling from sixth to seventh, on SS3 as Takamoto Katsuta slipped past and into fifth with the second fastest time on Geothermal.
Katsuta, who was second overall on last year’s Safari, was surprised his time was good as he felt his driving was bad.
Kalle Rovanperä felt being first car on the road was “horrible” but his pace on SS3 was strong; the championship leader set the fastest time.
It was enough to move him past M-Sport’s Craig Breen – whose pace dropped on Friday’s second stage – into eighth position overall.
“Safari, you have to get through it,” Breen said, explaining the 9.3s he lost.
“I struggled a bit at the trickier place at the start, I really didn’t get a rhythm to be honest with you but we’re here.”
Just 0.9s separates Breen’s Ford Puma Rally1 and Rovanperä’s GR Yaris Rally1.
Out front, Evans was the fastest of the leading trio to close Ogier’s lead down to just 0.8s. Sébastien Loeb dropped 0.6s to Ogier and therefore trails by 1.9s overall, but he was a little bit worried about his speed in places.
“I had the feeling I didn’t have a lot of power but I think it’s the altitude, on the uphill I couldn’t shift to fifth I was in fourth gear,” he said.
M-Sport team-mate Gus Greensmith “didn’t feel we had the punch” on the uphill sections in his M-Sport Ford either but he made up a position as team-mate Adrien Fourmaux adopted a cautious approach and slipped from fourth to sixth.
Katsuta’s Toyota is sandwiched by the two Pumas – Greensmith 1.1s ahead and Fourmaux 0.7s behind.
Oliver Solberg slipped behind Ott Tänak into 11th spot overall as he declared himself “not happy with the car”.
“It’s just so rough, I want to just get through,” he said.
Solberg is already 49.3s down on the rally leader.