Kalle Rovanperä became a two-time winner of Safari Rally Kenya on Sunday afternoon after he finished the legendary African fixture with a 1m 37.8s victory margin having led since Friday morning.

In by far the most gruelling FIA World Rally Championship round so far this season, it was Rovanperä’s meticulous balance of both speed and maturity that ultimately secured his 12th career victory.

Kalle Rovanperä (FIN) Jonne Halttunen (FIN) Of team TOYOTA GAZOO RACING WRT are seen on roadsection during the World Rally Championship Kenya in Naivasha, Kenya on 31,March. 2024 Photo By Jaanus Ree for Red Bull Content Pool

The Finn, co-driven by Jonne Halttunen, built a lead of almost one minute after winning all of Friday’s rock-strewn stages around Lake Naivasha, then kept his nose clean to end Saturday two minutes clear as the chasing pack ran into mechanical troubles and tyre damage.

That buffer allowed the two-time WRC champion to drive for a finish in Sunday’s final leg, which culminated amid stunning scenery at Hell’s Gate with Kenyan President William Ruto in attendance.

Takamoto Katstuta completed a Toyota GR Yaris 1-2 as the Japanese marque extended its manufacturers’ championship lead to four points over Hyundai Motorsport, while M-Sport Ford Puma hotshot Adrien Fourmaux bagged his second consecutive podium 47.3s behind.

“It’s always special to win here. Also, a legendary event for Toyota. We’ve always been so good here and that’s continuing. Like they say in Africa: the car in front is always a Toyota!

Rovanperä beamed
Thierry Neuville (BEL) and Martijn Wydaeghe (BEL) of Hyundai Motorsport in action at WRC Safari Rally Kenya on 31.03.24. Photo By Andre Lavadinho / @World for Red Bull Content Pool

“A big thanks to the team, everybody made a big effort to make the car work so well. I think me and Jonne did a good job, I don’t think you can have a better Safari Rally than we did. No issues, clever driving and I think it was a good effort.”

Elfyn Evans ended Friday in contention for a podium but a fraught Saturday, which saw the Welshman stop twice to carry out stage-side wheel changes, meant he finished over four minutes back from his team-mate Rovanperä in fourth overall. He remains second in the drivers’ championship behind leader Thierry Neuville, who trailed him by almost six minutes in fifth.

Neuville now heads Evans by six points but endured a troublesome week aboard his Hyundai i20 N. Fuel pressure problems on Saturday cost the Belgian several minutes and suspension damage on Sunday, inflicted by a rock on the racing line, added insult to injury. His colleagues, Esapekka Lappi and Ott Tänak fared worse.

Adrien Fourmaux (FRA) Alexandre Coria (FRA) Of team M-SPORT FORD WORLD RALLY TEAM are seen performing during the World Rally Championship Kenya in Naivasha, Kenya on 31,March. 2024 Photo By Jaanus Ree for Red Bull Content Pool

Lappi’s problems included two broken gearboxes over the course of the week while Tänak could only climb back to eighth overall behind WRC2 runners Gus Greensmith and Oliver Solberg after his car sustained broken suspension on Friday.

Completing the top 10 were gentleman driver Jourdan Serderidis in a Puma and Škoda Fabia Rally2 star Kajetan Kajetanowicz.

The WRC returns to asphalt for next month’s Croatia Rally which takes place from 18 – 21 April. The event is based in capital city Zagreb.

Overall classification:
1. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris 3h 36m 4.4s
2. T Katsuta / A Johnston JPN Toyota GR Yaris +1m 37.8s
3. A Fourmaux / A Coria FRA Ford Puma +2m 25.1s
4. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota GR Yaris +4m 20.2s
5. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 N +10m 17.5s
6. G Greensmith / J Andersson GBR Škoda Fabia +18m 5.4s

Kalle Rovanpera (FIN) Jonne Halttunen (FIN) of team Toyota Gazoo Racing celebrate on the podium in first place after winning the World Rally Championship in Naivasha, Kenya on 31.03.2024 with Takamoto Katsuta (JPN) Aaron Johnston (IRL) Of team TOYOTA GAZOO RACING WRT second place and Adrien Fourmaux (FRA) Alexandre Coria (FRA) Of team M-SPORT FORD WORLD RALLY TEAM third place Photo By Jaanus Ree for Red Bull Content Pool

Drivers’ championship standings (after round 3 of 13):
1. T Neuville 67pts
2. E Evans 61pts
3. A Fourmaux 46pts

Kurhula David Ngobeni

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