Safari Rally 2024: World champion Rovanpera wins WRC Safari Rally

By Ochieng Oyugi | Mar 31, 2024
Kalle Rovanpera naviagted by Jonne Halttunen in action at Hells Gate section.[Kipsang joseph,Standard]

Finn superstar Kalle Rovanpera is the winner of the 2024 FIA WRC Safari Rally Kenya that ended on Sunday in Naivasha.

The Toyota Gazoo Racing speedster clocked 3:36:04.0 to bag his second title in the Kenyan leg by 1 minute 37.8 seconds lead ahead of second-placed teammate and Japanese speedster Takamoto Katsuta (3:37:41.8) who recorded his third podium finish on Kenyan soil.

Rovanpera first first won his Safari Rally title in 2022.

Yesterday’s victory by the reigning world champion also propelled his stable Toyota Gazoo Racing to a 1-2 finish, but M- Sport Ford Adrien Fourmaux (3:38:29.1) finished third to spoil the party for Toyota who were out for a clean sweep on the podium for the fourth time.

It is the fourth time that Toyota is winning the Safari Rally team title in Kenya, including two podium sweeps in 2022 and 2023, since Kenya regained the WRC status in 2021 after a 19-year hiatus. Toyota first had a podium sweep in the Safari in 1993, led by their legendary driver Juha Kankkunen.

Kalle Rovanpera and co-driver Jonne Haltunnen of Toyota Gazoo Racing Team. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

“It is so special to win this event for the second time. As Toyota, we have always been good here (in Kenya). Like they say in Africa ‘The car in front of you is always a Toyota’, we are happy,” Rovapera told Standard Sports.

“Credit goes to the team, everyone put effort into making this car work perfectly for us and I think me and Jonne (Halttunen) did a good job," he added.

“We are happy that we did clever driving on this challenging terrain, we were trouble-free the whole week. I dedicate this victory to my good friend Halttunen whose birthday is today,” Rovapera said.

Drivers tackled 18 stages in this year’s Safari Rally, with Rovanpera triumphing in seven of them.

Despite the good run in the Safari, Rovanpera is not contesting the entire 2024 WRC championship for Toyota as he is alternating the series with teammate and French super star Sebastien Ogier who triumphed in the Safari Rally last season.

Best-placed Kenyan driver was five-time national champion Carl Tundo (4:41:09.60:10 ) at position 16 followed by African Rally Champion Karan Patel (5:09:33.1) at 18th, with Aakif Virani (5:29:01.9) and Hamza Anwar (6:16:11.8) settling for 19th and 20th respectively.

Top three WRC winners Kalle Rovanpera with his navigator Jonne Halttunen ,second position Takamoto Katsuta his navigator Aaron Johnston and third place Adrien Fourmaux naviagted by Alexandre Coria celebrate with champaine at hellsgate. [Kipsang Joseph,Standard]

Dubbed ‘Super Sunday’, six stages covering 74km were contested in the Safari Rally yesterday and they cruised across Malewa (8.33km), Oserian (18.33km) and Hell’s Gate (10.53km) conservancies with a similar repeat in the afternoon.

The finish point was at the Wolf Power Stage in Hell’s Gate where the prize giving ceremony was held and graced by President William Ruto.

While hailing the 2024 WRC Safari Rally, Ruto underscored Kenya’s heritage in the sport, adding that the global motorsports extravaganza gives the country an opportunity to showcase its scenic beauty to the rest of the world, thereby promoting Kenya as a global sporting and tourism destination.

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