WRC leader escapes early Kenya disaster

Kalle Rovanpera

Kalle Rovanpera has survived a major scare during the short Super Special stage that opened the Safari Rally Kenya.

The sole Thursday leg was topped by 2021 event winner Sebastien Ogier with a time of just under 200 seconds (3:18.8), but all eyes were on his young Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mate.

Rovanpera, who entered Round 6 of the season with almost double the points of any other driver, almost immediately rolled his car after running wide.

In the end, a right-rear puncture was the sum of the damage, causing the Finn to be just 11th on the leaderboard, already 11.6s adrift of Ogier.

“I was a bit on the limit under braking,” said Rovanpera.

“Nothing really happened, but we had a puncture. That was a big shame, but it’s a long rally and we will try to focus on the week ahead now.”

Rovanpera’s nearest threat in the championship, Thierry Neuville, finished SS1 second, with the top six separated by a mere 1.9s at this stage.

Rounding out that group was Ott Tanak, Elfyn Evans, Sebastien Loeb, and Takamoto Katsuta.

Another 18 gruelling stages are to come across Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

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