Ott Tänak has won the Safari Rally Kenya powerstage dress rehearsal, his first stage win of the weekend, as Kalle Rovanperä continues to lead the rally.
Unusually for a Sunday, the final leg of this year’s Safari Rally Kenya, is a six-stage affair with a 15-minute service in between the two loops.
Hell’s Gate was the third stage of the morning and last of the first loop, which will run as the powerstage later in the day – and the Hyundai drivers put the hammer down to get to grips with the test at speed.
Tänak was particularly effective, stopping the clocks a strong 6.3 seconds quicker than anybody else to lay down a potential marker.
“There is an opportunity for everything,” he said, looking ahead to the final stage of the rally.
“It’s so rough and anything can happen.”
Team-mate Thierry Neuville was second to Tänak on Hell’s Gate but is predicting a difficult time on the powerstage later in rougher, second-pass conditions.
All four Toyotas were in full conservation mode though as they’re on for an incredible 1-2-3-4 formation finish.
Fourth-placed Sébastien Ogier was quickest of the bunch, but Kalle Rovanperä was faster than Elfyn Evans to extend his lead to almost a minute – the gap now standing at 56.6s.
Asked if he’s pushing for any powerstage points, Rovanperä replied: “I don’t think so, it’s quite rough already.”
Takamoto Katsuta was even slower and confirmed the team tactics: “Nothing special to do today,” he said, “I just try to bring the car back without any damage.”
Craig Breen has been driving slowly through Safari Rally Kenya that he’s become incredibly sensitive to any slight problem.
Although there wasn’t really any visible proof of it, Breen was adamant that “for sure I have a puncture, I feel I have a puncture on the rear-right” of his Puma Rally1.
He turned his pace down even further on SS16 as a result, over 40s down on a sub-six-minute stage.
Breen is the highest placed M-Sport driver, but Sébastien Loeb does have some extra championship points in his sight with WRC2 leader Kajetan Kajetanowicz only a couple of minutes ahead of him in ninth.
Incredibly, despite being one hour and 19 minutes off the lead, Adrien Fourmaux and Gus Greensmith are split by just 1.6s.
“It doesn’t really matter when we’re an hour and 19 minutes off the lead,” Greensmith quipped.
Oliver Solberg was tight-lipped about the air filter problem that halted him and canceled Sunday’s opening stage, slipping from sixth to eighth as a result.
But with just a 41.9s deficit to gentleman driver Jourdan Serderidis, seventh place could be possible for Solberg.