Neuville holds Safari Rally lead on penultimate leg
Thierry Neuville held his nerve in stormy Safari Rally conditions to finish Day Three of the WRC Safari Rally top of the log, 57.4sec ahead Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta and World championship leader Sebastian Ogier.
It was smooth sailing for all drivers for the better part of the day until the last 31.04km of the day when a sudden downpour turned the dry and dusty roads of the Sleeping warrior stage into mud, a situation that threatened to derail the Safari leader.
Neuville braved the conditions and managed to end the day top of the standings, while Katsuta struggled to cope with the prevailing situation. The Belgian conceded he was nervous of losing his grip at the top.
“I’m not very emotional and not very much stressed, but I have to say I was. After all that fighting during the two last days, I refused to lose that position and kept fighting very hard. At the end, I was relieved to be in the lead. It doesn’t matter how much; being in the lead was the main thing.”
Ott Tanak was the biggest casualty of the new conditions as he got caught up in the storm, with his Hyundai i20’s windscreen blocked by mist and he had to stop to clear it by hand and by this he dropped more than a minute of time falling down to fourth as the resurgent Ogier moved to third.
“It started to rain quite soon after the start and unfortunately my side of the screen heater was not working. I had to ask Martijn [co-driver Wydaeghe] how the road goes, and in some places we had to stop and clean and try to figure it out,” he explained.
Word Championship leader Sébastien Ogier is now 18.1sec behind Katsuta and +1:15.5 behind Safari rally leader Thierry Neuville.
Ford Fiesta duo Gus Greensmith and Adrien Fourmaux both finished fifth and sixth respectively with a 0.12sec split between them.
Kalle Rovanperä who retired on Friday after getting stuck in the sand, managed to finish seventh.
WRC3 standings leader Onkar Rai will look to cement his place 8th place on the log as Karan Patel and Carl “Flash” Tundo mount a wild chase to topple him up in the last stages of the WRC Safari Rally.
Toyota’s Elfyn Evans and Hyundai’s Dani Sordo improved after retiring on Friday, and they are 12th and 13th respectively.
Tomorrow will be a neck to neck battle between the three, as Neuville looks to secure first WRC win in 2021, Katsuta still searching for his first podium finish and Ogier looking to extend his dominance in the World Rally Championships.
Drivers will tackle Loldia, Hellsgate and Malewa stages as the curtains fall on the iconic Safari Rally.
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