Neuville defies zebras, rain to extend Safari Rally Kenya lead

Thierry Neuville

Thierry Neuville has opened up a commanding lead following another dramatic day at the Safari Rally Kenya.

Neuville carried an 18.8-second advantage into Day 2 and widened that buffer to 57.4 seconds by the end of Saturday action.

It was not without challenges though, he and co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe forced to dodge a dazzle of zebras on both runs through Elmenteita (SS8 and SS11).

The #11 Hyundai entry also had a close call with a giraffe in SS10, before being faced with a downpour on the final pass of the Sleeping Warrior stage (SS13).

“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,” said Neuville.

“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.”

Toyota now holds second and third courtesy of Takamoto Katsuta and Sebastien Ogier, respectively, with Hyundai’s Ott Tanak dropping to fourth.

As rain teemed down during SS13, Tanak was hampered by windscreen heater issues.

“It started to rain quite soon after we started the stage, and unfortunately my side of the windscreen heater was not working,” the Estonian recounted.

“I had to ask Martin [Järveoja, co-driver] 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.”

Five stages make up the final day of competition in Kenya.

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