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Rovanpera, Solberg out to redeem their fathers image at Safari Rally

By Ochieng Oyugi - Jun 15th 2022
Toyota Gazoo's Kalle Rovanpera in action during the Safari Rally in Naivasha on June 26, 2021. [WRC.COM]

2022 World Rally Championships (WRC) leader Kalle Rovanperä is looking forward to making amends in the sixth leg of the series, the Safari Rally, after a disappointing fifth place finish in the Rally Italia Sardegna early this month.

The Finn will be joined by Toyota Gazoo Racing’s GR Yaris team-mates Sébastien Ogier, who replaces Esapekka Lappi to defend his Safari crown, Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta who will pilot a fourth GR Yaris for the Japanese manufacturer’s second-string squad.

Rovanperä is looking forward to surpass his father’s performance in the Safari, arguably considered the toughest leg of the global showpiece.

Rovanperä’s father, Harri, finished second in the 2002 Safari Rally before Kenya went into a 19-year hiatus from the world championships.

Rovanperä has bagged three rounds of the five legs so far held.

The youngster has opened a 55-point gap against second placed Thierry Neuville of Hyundai Motorsport following his victories in Sweden, Croatia and Portugal that has so far amassed him 120 points, which included winning the power stages where additional points are added to the tally.

The other two circuits; Monaco and Italy were won by returning legend Sébastien Loeb of M-Sport Ford and Ott Tänak of Hyundai.

Following Rovanperä’s fifth place finish in Italy, Toyota Gazoo Racing sporting director Kaj Lindström has come out to defend the youngster saying:  “I think we need to be realistic,” he told WRC.com.

“I mean, Kalle’s good - he’s talented and fast - but he’s not a superhuman. He will rise in the Safari Rally.”

Likewise, Oliver Solberg is also looking forward to continuing his family dream of winning the Safari Rally after replacing Dani Sordo in the Hyundai Motorsport third entry for the Kenyan competition. It will be Solberg’s fourth outing of the season.

Solberg’s father, Petter, finished the 1999 and 2000 Safari editions both fifth while driving a Ford Focus. Petter was navigated by his eventual championship winning navigator Phil Mills.

In 2000 and 2002, Petter was forced to retire early in the Safari Rally after losing wheels and suffering engine gremlins on both occasions. This did not deter his spirit as he eventually went ahead to win the 2003 WRC series.

Less than two years after his maiden rally in a four-wheel drive car, Solberg, 20, took part in the Safari Rally last season but failed to finish the contest after his car broke down.

With strong teammates like Neuville and Tänak, Solberg can only hope for a very strong finish in the Safari Rally this season with their high powered i20 N hybrid cars.

At the same time, M-Sport Ford has fielded an impressive five cars for the Safari Rally.

Returning legend Sébastien Loeb joins Craig Breen, Gus Greensmith and Adrien Fourmaux in a fleet of hybrid-powered Puma Rally1 machines for M-Sport Ford, while Greek driver Jourdan Serderidis will also pilot an additional car for the Pumas.

Polish driver Kajetan Kajetanowicz tops the WRC2 contenders, in a Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo. Martin Prokop will also bring his Ford Fiesta Rally2, with Sean Johnston fielding a Citroën C3 Rally.

Other frontrunners are likely to include the Fabias of Raajpal Bharij and Gaurav Gill as well as Karan Patel of Kenya.

 

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