The Flying Finn has won again after claiming the toughest crown on the calendar this Sunday. Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota) dominated the WRC Safari Rally Kenya 2022, leading from the end of the Friday session until Sunday.
This is the indomitable Scandinavian’s fourth victory (Croatia, Sweden, Portugal & Africa) in six races this year. Behind him came his teammate Elfyn Evans (+52.8s)). Despite trying everything, the Welshman had to capitulate in the face of Rovanperä’s superiority, who has demonstrated to be an all-terrain and all-weather master (gravel, mud, rocks, blazing sun, unexpected downpours…).
The Japanese team also claimed the third step of the podium thanks to Takamoto Katsuta (+1m, 42.7s) and his GR Yaris. Finally, and to round up a perfect day for Toyota, Sébastien Ogier, winner in Africa in 2021, took fourth place for the Jyväskylä squad.
Thanks to his sixth WRC win, Rovanperä has now further extended his lead of the standings. The Scandinavian now commands with 145 points, 65 more than Thierry Neuville (Hyundai), his immediate pursuer. Numbers aside, as favourable as they are for the #69, his dominance and control of the championship are absolute. There are still seven rounds to go, but it seems young Kalle has everything under control.
Hyundai is back underperforming
Hyundai and M-Sport’s weakness, on the other hand, made obvious at the WRC Safari Rally Kenya, is worrying, to say the least. A lot more was expected from the South Korean team which arrived in Africa in great spirits after winning in Sardinia.
It now seems that Ott Tänak’s victory at the Mediterranean appointment, the first of the year for the team, was nothing more than a mirage. The unreliability of the i20 N, and its many misfortunes, are back to the despair of Hyundai’s crew.
On Friday the Hyundai drivers could hardly hold their own against the overwhelming superiority of the Toyotas, which claimed the first four places. The real debacle, however, would come on Saturday when the team’s two stars, Ott Tänak and Thierry Neuville, were knocked out of the competition.
First, the Estonian suffered a technical fault in his i20 N during the ninth special, the second of the day. As a result, he dropped fourth, the best positioned i20 N, to below the top 10 by the end of the day, giving up more than forty minutes with the lead.
The Belgian racer, for his part, had to abandon when he was running third after hitting a tree following an engine failure. This cost him ten minutes and although he was able to finish the day, the damage to his machine forced him to take off his helmet. Despite its best efforts this Sunday, Hyundai did not succeed. Its best classified was Neuville, in fifth.
Fiasco at M-Sport
M-Sport suffered a similar fate to Hyundai at the WRC Safari Rally Kenia 2022. The return of Sébastien Loeb, which had brought much hope to the team, did not turn out as expected. The 2022 Monte-Carlo winner had to abandon during the third stage on Friday when he was running fourth, a repeat of his Portuguese fiasco.
Ogier’s retirement, however, was only the beginning of the nightmare for the Cumbrian team. Soon after, in that same stage, Gus Greensmith would lose the rear right tire of his Puma, dropping from fourth to twentieth as a result and losing more than 13 minutes.
Finally, the last of the ordeal came later in the day with the withdrawal of Adrien Fourmaux. In one day, they had lost three of their contenders. On Saturday the string of incidents continued.
Images of WRC Safari Rally Kenia 2022: Toyota Gazoo Racing.