Sunday April 21, 2024

Rovanperä sets pace as WRC Safari shakedown unfolds in Kenya

Published : 28 Mar 2024, 00:19

Updated : 28 Mar 2024, 00:25

  DF News Desk
Kalle Rovanperä of Finland celebrates during the awarding ceremony for the 2022 Croatia Rally, third round of the FIA World Rally Championship in Kumrovec, Croatia, on April 24, 2022. File Photo: Luka Stanzl/PIXSELL via Xinhua.

World champion Finnish driver Kalle Rovanperä set the pace as the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally Kenya action got underway on Wednesday with the event's shakedown, reported Xinhua.

Estonian ace Ott Tanak set the early pace in round one of the shakedown held in Naivasha, 90km northwest of Nairobi, before Rovanperä, who won the Safari in 2022, took it over.

Initially 0.9s slower than Tanak after his first run of the Loldia warm-up test, the Finn clocked the fastest time on his second and penultimate pass in his Toyota G-R Yaris to secure the top spot on the leaderboard.

Rovanperä finished two-tenth of a second ahead of Belgian WRC championship leader Thierry Neuville's Hyundai i20.

"This is a rally where you normally don't expect too much before the weekend because you never know what's going to happen," Rovanperä told the WRC website after his run.

Tanak in another Hyundai was 1.4 seconds further back in third.

WRC Rally Sweden winner Esapekka Lappi trailed teammate Tanak by a single tenth ahead of fifth-placed Elfyn Evans.

The Safari is Africa's round of the WRC and is the third leg of the global championship this season.

Rovanperä comes to Kenya with a point to prove after he crashed from the lead of last month's Rally Sweden early on day one.

The event will be flagged off in Nairobi on Thursday by Kenyan President William Ruto before the 29 entries proceed to a Special Spectator Stage showdown.

The cars will then travel back to Naivasha for 19 competitive stages in the rally proper that runs from Friday through to Sunday.

Local fans will also have plenty to cheer for, with former national champions Carl "Flash" Tundo and Karan Patel leading the eight-man charge alongside a spirited contingent of local talent who aim to make their mark on the global stage.

They will be joined by Mitsubishi Evolution X trio of Nikhil Sachania, Andrew Muiruri and Minesh Rathod to Skoda Fabia Evo and Aakif Virani in a Skoda Fabia and Hamza Anwar of the Ford Fiesta Rally 3 marques.

Alongside them will be Kenya National Rally leader Samaan Singh Vohra who will tackle the event behind the wheel of a Skoda Fabia Evo navigated by Alfir Khan.