At the finish, they were almost a minute ahead of their British Toyota team-mates Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin. By world championship standards, that was a huge gap and an expression of a chaotic rally.
The special stages around Lake Naivasha, around 100 kilometers north of Nairobi, were by far the toughest thing the teams had to face this season. Knee-deep powder sand (Fesh-Fesh) caused extreme dust development, in which some drivers even lost their orientation for a short time.
The complex technology of the new World Rally Cars (hybrid drive with around 515 hp) also reached its limits. The dense dust made things difficult for both the 1.6-liter turbo petrol engines (dirt in the intake air) and the electric motors (clogged cooling).
Hyundai driver Ott Tänak first had to replace a broken gear lever with part of the jack. Later, a burst cardan shaft meant the final end for the Estonian. Due to a steering defect, teammate Craig Breen had to use the rules that allow a restart for the following stage.
The numerous retirements pushed Sébastien Ogier up from sixth place to fourth. Third place went to his young Japanese Toyota teammate Takamoto Katsuta.
The Japanese brand not only celebrated its tenth victory in the toughest rally of the year. She was also the only one to make ends meet with all the factory cars without a restart. And after the fourth win of the season, works driver Kalle Rovanperä can slowly think about becoming the successor to Sébastien Ogier on the world championship throne.
Result Safari Rally Kenya
2. Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota Yaris WRC), +52.8 seconds
3. Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota Yaris WRC), +1:42.7 minutes
4. Sébastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas (Toyota Yaris WRC), +2m10.3s
5. Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC), +10m 40.9s
6. Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC), +23.27.9 minutes
Championship status after six of 13 rallies
1. Kalle Rovanperä (FIN/Toyota Yaris WRC), 145 points
2. Thierry Neuville (BEL/Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC), 80 points
3. Ott Tanak (EST/Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC), 62 points
4. Takamoto Katsuta (J/Toyota Yaris WRC), 62 points
5. Craig Breen (IRL/Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC), 60 points
6. Elfyn Evans (GBR/Toyota Yaris WRC), 57 points