French driver Sébastien Ogier is still leading the Kenyan rally.
The duel keeps its promises: the Frenchman Sébastien Ogier is still leading the Kenyan rally on Saturday, after resisting the onslaught of the Finnish Kalle Rovanperä, comfortable leader of the world championship thanks to the disappointments of his pursuers.
Kenyan tracks are not forgiving. Everyone was warned and yet, when it comes time to measure up to these earthy and rocky tracks, transformed into veritable quagmires by the rain at the end of the day, misadventures follow one another.
So much so that before the last stage on Sunday, only two drivers are in the fight, separated by 16.7 seconds: the Toyotas of Ogier, eight-time world champion, and Rovanperä, 22, defending champion and championship leader .
The others are relegated to more than two minutes, with first Takamoto Katsuta and Elfyn Evans, two other Toyotas – spinning towards a quadruple for this 7th round of the season (out of 13), like last year.
Since returning to the calendar in 2021, Kenya has earned a reputation as the toughest round of the year. It is therefore normal that the best win here: Ogier in 2021, Rovanperä in 2022.
In this elimination race, the Belgian Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) and the Estonian Ott Tänak (M-Sport Ford) paid the price: second and third in the championship before landing in the savannah, they are respectively 24 and eight minutes.
Neuville, who had given up on Friday, was nevertheless able to leave to grab a few crumbs, in particular the bonus points for the Power stage.
Nevertheless, in the general clification, Ogier (39) would go up to around Neuville, Evans and Tänak and could even overtake them… while the Frenchman is not competing in all the rallies this season. Absent in Sweden and Portugal, he will still miss races. Ogier and his partial program is therefore not a direct competitor for Rovanperä, and the Finn knows it.
“I think we could push a bit more, but Seb is definitely pushing hard for this win. In our case, we also have to think about the championship, and my pursuers are very late“, he explained, all in maturity from the top of his 22 years.
Hyundai also continues its disaster weekend, with another abandonment on Saturday: that of the Finn Esapekka Lappi, for mechanical problem.