Safari Rally: Takamoto bounces back after appeal, Kalle in charge

Japan’s Takamoto Katsuta navigated by Aaron Johnson racing on a Toyota Yaris

Japan’s Takamoto Katsuta navigated by Aaron Johnson racing on a Toyota Yaris cruise through Kedong stage in Naivasha during World Rally Championships Safari Rally on June 24, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Toyota was the dominant team with Hyundai suffering mixed fortunes while Ford suffered the most.
  • Kenya’s great hope in R2 (second-tier) category, Karan Patel, dropped to 20th following mechanical problems while Maxine Wahome returned home on 21st in her first experience in the Ford R3.

Sebastien Loeb’s woes and Carl Tundo’s flawless, remarkable drive underlined the skills of the Kenyan in a day full of drama and heart breaks which retained the reputation of the WRC Safari Rally as an unpredictable battle between man and machine against the elements of nature.

Toyota was the dominant team with Hyundai suffering mixed fortunes while Ford suffered the most.

Carl Tundo navigated by Tim Jessop racing on a Mitsubishi Evo

Carl Tundo navigated by Tim Jessop racing on a Mitsubishi Evo cruise through Kedong stage in Naivasha during World Rally Championships Safari Rally on June 24, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Kenya’s great hope in R2 (second-tier) category, Karan Patel, dropped to 20th following mechanical problems while Maxine Wahome returned home on 21st in her first experience in the Ford R3.

Only 31 cars made it back to the finish at the end of Day Two on Friday.

But the day’s most dramatic incident was when Katsuta Takamoto fired back to second position from fifth, only 14.5 second behind team mate Rovanpera following a successful appeal by Toyota Gazoo Racing team Friday evening.

Stewards actualised this after results audit.

This demoted Evans Elyn to third for  a Toyota 1-2-3 lead, followed by Hyundai's Ott Tanak.

Previous finishing positions remain.

Maxine Wahome navigated by Murage Waigwa racing on a Ford Fiesta

Maxine Wahome navigated by Murage Waigwa racing on a Ford Fiesta cruise through Kedong stage in Naivasha during World Rally Championships Safari Rally on June 24, 2022.


Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Loeb’s Ford Puma’s mechanical failure and repairs which followed defined the thin line in rallying as life and death akin to a team surgeon racing against time to save an accident victim on oxygen with the heartbeat slipping away.

Loeb entered Kedong’s second run lying third just 1.9 seconds behind leader Sebastien Ogier, but came out bruised with a small fire coming out of the rear which was put off, but for inexplicable reasons the engine stopped running automatically and he switched into electric mode.

Rally fan follows action at Kedong stage

A rally fan smiles follows Day 1 action through his binoculars at Kedong stage in Naivasha during World Rally Championships Safari Rally on June 24, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

But the battery drained fast along Moi South Road before the Ford stopped and he could do nothing but to reach his team to dispatch a flatbed truck to carry the car back to service park from where mechanics immediately went to work from 2:05pm in what would have been mission impossible but these professionals don’t have such a vocabulary.

The engine was not working by 5:14pm, and with three minutes and 30 seconds left before Loeb was time barred for the second time in a day, they continued unrelenting surrounded by bystanders with team principal Malcolm Wilson nervously glancing his wrist watch as time ticked away as the unfolding drama being broadcast live by WRC TV to the global audience.

Then the clock started ticking away from 30 seconds.

But when everybody was accepting the inevitable “demise” the car’s engine fired back to life with three seconds left, followed by a round applause.

Republic of Ireland's Graig Breen navigated by Paul Nagel racing on a Ford Puma

Republic of Ireland's Graig Breen navigated by Paul Nagel racing on a Ford Puma cruise through Kedong stage in Naivasha during World Rally Championships Safari Rally on June 24, 2022.


Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

A mechanic engaged reverse and slowly drove the car to the Park Ferme for overnight stay in readiness for a restart Saturday morning.

Modern rally rules allow a competitor to restart his rally the following day with a time penalty of one hour which dropped Loeb to the 26th position.

Had the car failed to be repaired within the stipulated time then Loeb, returning to Kenya after 20 years, would have packed his bags and kissed the Safari goodbye.

Japan’s Takamoto Katsuta navigated by Aaron Johnson racing on a Toyota Yaris

Japan’s Takamoto Katsuta navigated by Aaron Johnson racing on a Toyota Yaris cruise through Kedong stage in Naivasha during World Rally Championships Safari Rally on June 24, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

This is a similar misfortune that befell Jeremiah Wahome and Victor Okundi whose Ford Fiesta R3 stopped at the end of Loldia 1, forcing organisers to dispatch a flatbed to carry it back to the service park.

“The engine just cut out. I don’t know what happened, said a disappointed Wahome.

“My rally is over even if I restart tomorrow.”

The Safari Rally was more dramatic than last year.

Fesh Fesh wreaked havoc reducing visibility to zero, forcing drivers to drive blindly depending on pace notes from co drivers.

So bad was the situation in Kedong that competitors were forced to use wipers to clear the fine dust.

Estonia’s Ott Tanak navigated by Martine Jarveoja racing on a Hyundai i20

Estonia’s Ott Tanak navigated by Martine Jarveoja  racing on a Hyundai i20 cruise through Kedong stage in Naivasha during World Rally Championships Safari Rally on June 24, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Underneath the Fesh Fesh were hidden stones which Gus Greensmith clipped one, literally dislodging the tyre from the rim.

But the Briton continued on three wheels unperturbed until navigator Jonas Anderson saw the fire alarm light blip on board. It was automatically put off. But the damage had torn the rear side wing.

A rally fan smiles inside dust at Kedong stage in Naivasha

A rally fan smiles inside dust at Kedong stage in Naivasha during World Rally Championships Safari Rally on June 24, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

They quickly changed the tyres and lost time. This put them back to 17Tth position.
World championship leader Kalle Rovanpera in a Toyota Gazoo Racing finished the day after, up from 11th in the morning a happy man.

"I think there is a better clean line, so there was more grip. Some parts were a bit rough, but it wasn't too bad. Overall, quite an okay stage,” he said.

Team mate Elfyn Evans finished second 22.4 seconds behind 2019 world champion Ott Tanak in third (25.3s).

Thierry Neuville's misfortunes in the Safari continued from last year after the car ran out of power, struggling to the end.

“I don’t know what happened,” during the morning run but the problem was fixed and he was able to finish the day in fifth though 57 seconds behind Rovanpera.

"I am struggling as well with the drivability of the engine. We are going to work on the settings and try to improve - that's the only thing we can do," said the Belgian after the first loop.

Mechanics managed to rectify the problem and he had a trouble free afternoon.

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