- Hyundai Motorsport has extended its lead of Safari Rally Kenya despite wet weather turning Saturday’s final stage into a lottery
- Thierry Neuville increased his advantage to 57.4-seconds with a solid Saturday, but Ott Tänak dropped to fourth after losing time due to visibility issues in the torrential conditions
- All three Hyundai Motorsport crews took stage wins on Saturday: Neuville in SS8 (Elmenteita), Tänak in SS12 (Soysambu) and Dani Sordo in SS13 (Sleeping Warrior).
Hyundai Motorsport has emerged from the second full day of Safari Rally Kenya – round six of the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) – with an extended 57.4-second lead after a dramatic, rain-soaked end to Saturday.
Action began with the 14.67km Elmenteita (SS8/SS11), allowing crews the chance to kick up the dust in wide-open Kenyan terrain. Rallying against a stunning Safari backdrop – with local wildlife also making an appearance – the loop continued with Soysambu (SS9/SS12, 20.33km) and Sleeping Warrior (SS10/SS13, 31.04km), the longest individual stage of the day. The trio of timed tests was repeated after lunchtime service. Patches of heavy rain created a lottery of treacherous conditions in the late afternoon, as Sleeping Warrior re-awakened Safari Rally Kenya.
Overnight leaders Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe earned their stripes, deftly avoiding a dazzle of zebras on both runs through Elmenteita, as well as a close encounter with a giraffe in the first pass of Sleeping Warrior, to extend their lead. As the rain fell in the repeated run of Sleeping Warrior, worsening conditions required the Belgians to dig deep but it was risk versus reward as they ended Saturday with an increased advantage over Takamoto Katsuta.
Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja had one objective on the penultimate day: to bring their Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC home safely. The Estonians picked up a stage win in SS12 to cut the gap to second place, but their efforts were hampered by visibility issues in the final stage due to a faulty windscreen heater. The crew took the decision to stop in the stage to clear the screen manually but subsequently lost time and dropped to fourth overall.
Dani Sordo and Borja Rozada returned to the rally on Saturday morning, following their retirement on Friday’s third stage. The Spaniards adopted a deliberately cautious approach as they targeted a safe passage through to Sunday’s Power Stage – and a chance to fight for extra championship points. They escaped the rain in SS13 to end the day with a consolatory stage win.
Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (#11 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
- Stage win in SS8 extended the Belgian crew’s lead over Takamoto Katsuta
- Despite the conditions in SS13, they increased their advantage to 57.4-seconds
Neuville said: “I am relieved to be in the lead of Safari Rally Kenya after the final stage we faced today; it doesn’t matter by how much, keeping the position was the most important thing today. We have pushed hard over the past two days to be in front, so I fought hard and refused to lose the position. I knew that other drivers had rain in the stage, but I was already in wet conditions after only 3km. I realised that I was losing time already there, and that it could only get worse. I was determined to keep driving as fast as I could, even in the four or five sections where there was a heavy downpour. Keeping the car on the road wasn’t easy but we managed it – and we can now focus on the final day. It’s going to be another rough one, but I enjoyed those stages in the recce, so I hope we can have a trouble-free run and secure the win.”
Crew Notes: Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (#8 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
- Estonian crew were homing in on second place, cutting the gap during Saturday’s stages
- Windscreen heater issues in SS13 hampered progress
Tänak said: “It started to rain quite soon after we started the stage, and unfortunately my side of the windscreen heater was not working. I had to ask Martin where the road goes but we couldn’t do that for 30kms in slippery conditions. We had to stop, clean and try to figure things out. The stage took a long time, and it was complicated. Tomorrow is demanding, and from the team’s perspective it’s important to finish, so we keep focused on the job in hand.”
Crew Notes: Dani Sordo/Borja Rozada (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
- Spaniards re-joined rally after their Friday retirement
- The crew ended Saturday with a stage win
Sordo said: “Before I started the final stage, I saw the clouds and sent a picture to the team and said that something is coming. We were able to miss the rain and could be fast in the conditions. Taking a stage win was a nice way to end the day. Before that, as first on the road, the cleaning effect was very high, so we really couldn’t do any more. I didn’t have any particular target today; we focused on just driving and keeping a good feeling with the car. At times, it was slippery and demanding, so we had to be careful. I am not in any battle, I just wanted to make it safely to the end and not take any risks.”
Team Principal Andrea Adamo said: “Our aim for today was to try and pass through all the stages at reasonable speed and to bring the cars home safely. The rain showers in the final, crazy stage really shook things up. Sadly, the de-misting system on Ott’s car was not working properly, so he lost time as a result of that. For Thierry, despite his understandable frustration at the stage-end, he was able to increase his lead, but it means nothing. This rally still has more surprises up its sleeve. Tomorrow’s stages will be much worse than today, perhaps similar to Friday, so anything can still happen. We knew that Safari Rally would be tough; we have to stay calm and manage things as best as we can.”
Sunday at a glance
- The final five stages of the exciting Safari Rally Kenya will be held on Sunday, run over 53.49km
- Loldia (11.33km) and Hell’s Gate (10.56km) start and end the day’s itinerary with the latter being held as the Power Stage
- A 9.71km run through Malewa splits the two loops.
Classification after Day Two
|1||T. Neuville||M. Wydaeghe||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||2:45:04.6|
|2||T. Katsuta||D. Barritt||Toyota Yaris WRC||+57.4|
|3||S. Ogier||J. Ingrassia||Toyota Yaris WRC||+1:15.5|
|4||O. Tänak||M. Järveoja||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+2:21.2|
|5||G. Greensmith||C. Patterson||Ford Fiesta WRC||+2:39.4|
|6||A. Fourmaux||R. Jamoul||Ford Fiesta WRC||+2:51.4|
|7||K. Rovanperä||J. Halttunen||Toyota Yaris WRC||+11:04.3|