WRC Series leader Rovanpera tops shakedown action

Fin driver Kalle Rovanpera navigated by Jonne Halttunen. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

World Rally Championship (WRC) Series leader Kalle Rovanpera clocked 3:42.1 to top the Safari Rally shakedown yesterday, at the Ndulele Conservancy in Loldia, Naivasha.

The Toyota Gazoo Racing driver posted 3:50.5, 3:42.1, 3:52.1 in the three rounds to set an early pace ahead of the Safari Rally showdown.

“From the recce we did on Tuesday, my prediction is that the Safari Rally will be very tough, the stages tougher than last season,” the 21-year-old Finn said.

Rovanpera, like most of the drivers, believes conditions will be even more challenging than in 2021.

“I was not expecting such rough conditions like we saw on the recce and the roads are even more soft than last year. I think, in some places, it might be good to be the first car on the road here. Of course, we will have some cleaning in some sections, but that is not the biggest place where you can lose time," he said.

“We had rain on one stage in the recce, but the road wasn’t really very wet. Everybody says that if it rains it’s extremely slippery and I have seen some on boards. It’s crazy when it gets wet, so I don’t really know what to expect."

Rovanpera was among the big guns who fell by the wayside in last year's Safari Rally held at the lakeside town of Naivasha.

Thierry Neuville, driving a Hyundai i20 N, was second in the shakedown after finishing +0.5 seconds late.

Rovanpera, Neuville was also heartbroken last season after he crashed out of the competition. He led in all but two stages before his exit.

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