Tänak crashes out of second place in Kenya

Hitting a rock sent Ott Tänak's Hyundai off the road and into retirement


Ott Tänak’s difficult start to the 2024 World Rally Championship season has taken a turn for the worse, as he crashed out of second place on Safari Rally Kenya.

A fourth-place finish after a trip off-road and a retirement in Sweden left Tänak on the back foot in the championship heading to Kenya, needing a strong result to keep pace with Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville and Toyota’s Elfyn Evans early on in the title race.

But a second retirement in as many rallies beckoned for the 2019 world champion, striking a rock in the middle of the road a couple of miles into the Geothermal test, the sixth stage of the rally.

Striking a rock sent Tänak’s i20 N Rally1 momentarily into the air, appearing to break his steering and sending him directly into a bank.

Though he tried to reverse out, Tänak’s efforts to resume proved fruitless, pulling over to the other side of the road and retiring on the spot.

“Basically it’s things that you can probably expect in Safari,” Tänak told DirtFish. “It was just a huge rock, probably out from the ground from a previous car. It was not a small one, it was really huge. And obviously in a blind medium-fast corner…so it was a big surprise.

“At that speed, I had a choice to hit the rock and see what happens, or go off. So there were no solutions. Unfortunately, we hit the rock and it still put us into the bank.”

Tänak’s retirement compounds a woeful afternoon for Hyundai, as Esapekka Lappi had parked up one stage earlier with a transmission fault.

Lappi and Tänak had been second and third after Friday’s midday service; with both drivers out, Kalle Rovanperä now leads a Toyota 1-2-3.

“It was tricky hearing Ott going out,” said Rovanperä at stage end. “Now my team-mates being the closest ones and still only having a bit of a gap, I didn’t want to do anything crazy. The driving didn’t feel so good but it was clean, so quite a good time.”

Takamoto Katsuta and Elfyn Evans continue to be closely matched, though Katsuta was able to find three seconds on Evans in Geothermal to increase his advantage to 4.8s.

Championship leader Thierry Neuville had lost time on Friday morning with a puncture that heavily damaged the right-rear corner of his i20 N Rally1.

In two stages Neuville has gone from last to first of the Hyundais and is now in the podium battle, 11.7s behind Evans.

M-Sport pairing Adrien Fourmaux and Grégoire Munster have inherited fifth and sixth place respectively with the demise of the two Hyundais.