Latvala lauds mettle of his Toyota drivers on gruelling Safari Rally Kenya

Toyota Gazoo Racing Team Principal Jari-Matti Latvala has heaped praised on his four drivers for “holding their nerve” on the penultimate day of an incident-filled Safari Rally Kenya.
Latvala lauds mettle of his Toyota drivers on gruelling Safari Rally Kenya

Despite being struck down with a stomach bug, Kalle Rovanpera provisionally leads a 1-2-3-4 for the Japanese squad, his buffer over team-mate Elfyn Evans currently 40.3 seconds with a further six Sunday stages to run.

Of all the new Rally1 cars, the GR Yaris is the one that has handled the rough and tumble of the African counter best, with Rovanpera, Evans and 2021 event winner Sebastien Ogier having all taken turns to top the leaderboard so far.

Only Takamoto Katsuta – who is third, a minute and 12 seconds clear of World Rally Championship legend Ogier – has not managed to do that, choosing instead to come down on the side of caution to maximise his chances of reaching the finish.

The retirement of Hyundai Motorsport’s Ott Tanak on SS10 with propshaft failure, and Thierry Neuville withdrawin after crashing into a tree on Saturday’s closing ‘Sleeping Warrior’, has helped to bunch the Toyota drivers up and put them on course for a record-breaking result.

“It’s really amazing to have all four cars in the top four positions,” said Latvala. “It’s been a fantastic day. The conditions have been horrendous, making it very difficult for the drivers.

“I’m really glad that our drivers could hold their nerve in those challenging conditions, and also that our car has been working so well and been reliable.

“It’s a fantastic situation for us now but there are still many kilometres to go, so tomorrow is going to be a tough day,” he added. “We just want to see all four cars get to the end, but you never know what can happen on this event. We just need to do our work as well as we can and keep our fingers crossed.”

Those views were shared by Rovanpera who is on course to make it four World Rally Championship triumphs from the opening six rounds. Although the Sunday leg is not the longest, it does consist of a new stage in the shape of ‘Narasha’ – a test that works its way along the Rift Valley and across Maasai grazing lands.

“Tomorrow is much longer than a normal Sunday so there is still a proper day of driving ahead. We need to stay sharp because still anything can happen,” said Rovanpera, with Evans adding: “As a team we’re in a great position but tomorrow will still be challenging with two passes of all the stages, and the second loop especially could be very interesting.”

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