Categories: News

World Rally Championship: Thierry Neuville survives ax day in Kenya

Thierry Neuville and his co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC) closed the second day of the Safari rally as leaders. Our compatriot is 18”8 seconds ahead of Japan’s Takamoto Katsuta (Toyota Yaris WRC). Ott Tänak (Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC) follows third, 55”8 seconds behind leader Neuville.

The Safari rally is a demanding rally, that is well known. Contrary to the past, the cars of today are no longer adapted to the rough track. The reason for moving away from specially built cars for this rally has everything to do with cost savings. The result is that the ordinary rally cars are less resistant to what they have to deal with in Kenya. That quickly became clear today.

Sébastien Ogier (Toyota Yaris WRC) damaged his suspension in the second stage of the day. Thanks to an emergency repair, he was able to reach the finish of the third stage of the day. He had to take the loss of one and a half minutes. It was worse for his teammate Elfyn Evans (Toyota Yaris WRC) who lost a wheel with the finish of KP3 in sight. The same fate befell Dani Sordo (Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC). Thierry Neuville didn’t give up, won two stages and took the lead halfway through the day, 5.1 seconds ahead of Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota Yaris WRC).

The fear that the course would be even worse after the first passage was quickly confirmed. Neuville first lost the lead to Rovanperä and broke a rim towards the end of the next stage. Despite that setback, the Belgian regained the lead as Rovanperä lost time towards the end of the stage.

The first kilometer of the final stage was particularly tough. Ogier suffered from a lot in the initial phase terminate, but nevertheless set the fastest time together with his teammate Takamoto Katsuta. Thanks to that time, the Japanese moves up to second place, the Frenchman to fourth place. Kalle Rovanperä digested that terminate less well. After 900 meters the visibility for the Finn was zero, he got stuck in the loose sand and his radiator got clogged. The Finn had to throw in the towel.

Thierry Neuville was also not unscathed from that ride. A little over half way the left rear tire exploded and the Belgian had to save it on his rim. Neuville lost 39.8 seconds to Ogier and Katsuta. Despite that flat tire, Neuville ends the day as leader. “The biggest problem on this ride was the tires. But there are still some things that need to be checked during the service”, Neuville was rather concerned at the finish. Teammate Ott Tänak punctured the front left and lost 54.9 seconds in turn. The Estonian remains third. Adrien Fourmaux and Renaud Jamoul (Ford Fiesta WRC) suffered an engine problem to finish the day in sixth place.

On Saturday there will be another six rides. The Safari rally ends on Sunday afternoon. (belga)

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