What you need to know:
- In the lead up to the 2021 WRC Safari Rally, Kenyan rally officials had attended several WRC events from 2018 to learn the technical aspects of modern WRC.
- Ogier won the rally which was making a return to the WRC calender after a 19-year hiatus.
The World Rally Championship Acropolis Rally Greece was the revelation of 20-year-old Kalle Rovanpera, who scored his second WRC win last Sunday, after dominating the race in a Toyota Yaris Gazoo Racing.
But it is the news of three upcoming Kenyan drivers; Jeremy Wahome, McRae Kimathi and Hamza Anwar competing in next month’s WRC Rally Finland - the Mecca of rallying - that is causing excitement both on the local and international scene.
The three are part of the FIA Rally Star programme, a global project that identifies and nurtures upcoming rally drivers.
The youngsters will guage themselves against the best professional drivers in the world under demanding road conditions in the Finland Rally.
In Greece, Rovanpera mastered the rough road conditions to seal a perfect win for Toyota after conquering the Wolf Power Stage to earn five bonus points. Rovanperä, and defending world champion Sebastien Ogier increased Toyota Gazoo Racing’s lead at the top of the manufacturers’ standings to 397 points while Hyundai Motorsport is second with 340 points.
The young Finn, Rovanpera, scored a massive 42.1 seconds ahead of the 2019 world champion Ott Tanak of Estonia in a Hyundai i20 after four days of competition in the rocky mountains of central Greece, only two months after becoming the youngest ever driver to compete in a WRC round in Rally Estonia.
The Acropolis Rally was treacherous, with persistent rain making some roads slippery, while other section of the rally route were rough and rocky.
Tänak finished second in a Hyundai i20 after a late scare, while seven-time world champion Ogier displayed a perfect and measured drive to finish third in 29.2sec.
The Frenchman is sitting steady for a possible successful title defence as he leads the championship standinds with a 44 points advantage with three rounds to go this season.
Rovanperä took the lead in the third section on Friday morning and never eased off although he finished the day ahead with a slim 3.9 seconds.
However, he was able to pile pressure on Saturday to win four stages to build his lead to almost 40 seconds.
“I was not maybe the most comfortable coming here but it just shows that now everything is going well for us and we can push hard,” smiled Rovanperä.
“We had a perfect car and also a rough rally and it was running without issues all the time.”
Tänak never felt comfortable but was glad to accept second place after the final day electrical issues.
His car then refused to fire up ahead of the closing stage. It eventually started, with smoke clearly visible, and he completed the test with no further dramas.
With the closest title challengers Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans plunging down the order after day one problems. Ogier was content with a risk-free approach as he looks forward to winning his eighth world title.
Hyundai’s Dani Sordo was almost two minutes further back in fourth; the Spaniard again missing a podium place.
He had nearly three minutes in hand over Gus Greensmith, who moved ahead of Ford Fiesta team-mate Adrien Fourmaux.
Fourmaux incurred a three-minute penalty when his car would not start before Sunday’s opening stage until mechanics traced the mechanical issue which was resolved by changing a spark plug.
With the matter resolved, the Frenchman moved ahead of Weshman Evans in the penultimate stage but a final test spin pushed him behind again to seventh place.
Top WRC Safari Rally Kenya officials led by chief executive officer Phineas Kimathi attended the Acropolis Rally to gain more knowledge on how to better organise the next round of the world’s toughest rally.
In the lead up to the 2021 WRC Safari Rally, Kenyan rally officials had attended several WRC events from 2018 to learn the technical aspects of modern WRC.
Ogier won the rally which was making a return to the WRC calender after a 19-year hiatus.