Neuville takes control at rain-soaked Safari RallyThu, 28 Mar 2024 13:11:25 GMT

Belgian world championship leader Thierry Neuville took control of the Safari Rally Kenya on Thursday after the opening special stage ahead of Estonia’s Ott Tanak, both driving a Hyundai.Neuville edged Tanak by a slim 0.1-second margin after the ‘super special’ where drivers competed two by two over a short loop during the day’s only stage on a rain-soaked and muddy track.Finland’s double reigning world champion Kalle Rovanpera was third fastest in a Toyota as the 23-year-old competes in just a few WRC world championship events this year.Neuville leads Briton Elfyn Evans of Toyota by three points after two rounds of the championship in Monte Carlo and Sweden. Even if Hyundai are off to a good start to the season with Neuville winning in Monte Carlo and Finn Esapekka Lappi in Sweden, the Toyotas are favourites in Kenya after winning the last three editions of the African event which made its return to WRC calendar in 2021. The Safari Rally, third round of 13 in the championship, is considered the most difficult. This year it takes place in the middle of the rainy season which makes the tracks muddy and difficult to navigate. The 19 special stages covering 367.76 timed kilometres take place around Lake Naivasha and Lake Elementaita, in the middle of the Rift Valley, around 2,000 meters above sea level.