Sebastien Ogier takes Safari Rally lead as Ott Tanak is halted by zebras crossing

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Sebastien Ogier takes Safari Rally lead as Ott Tanak is halted by zebras crossing

Sebastien Ogier and co-driver Vincent Landais steer their Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid during the WRC Safari Rally Kenya
Sebastien Ogier and co-driver Vincent Landais steer their Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid during the WRC Safari Rally KenyaAFP
Sebastien Ogier (39) dominated Friday's stages in the Safari Rally as some of his rivals lost horsepower when zebras wandered onto the course.

"We had a group of zebras so we had to stop for them a few times," said Ott Tanak, who won Thursday's opening stage but was then held up by the wildlife on the opening stage on Friday.

Ogier, who isn't driving a full season, pounced to win the opening stage and take the overall lead.

Eight-time world champion Ogier's hybrid unit cut out on the day's third stage which championship leader Kalle Rovanpera won to cut the lead to 2.5sec.

The French driver responded by taking the last three stages of the day.

Kalle Rovanpera and co-driver Jonne Halttunen steer their Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid
Kalle Rovanpera and co-driver Jonne Halttunen steer their Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 HybridAFP

"It's been a good day. Except for the hybrid issue this morning we had a perfect day, so we can be happy," said Ogier at the finish.

After Friday's six stages, Toyotas occupied the top three places.

Ogier was 22.8 seconds ahead of Finn Rovanpera with Welshman Elfyn Evans at 43.5. There are six more stages on both Saturday and Sunday.

"It was quite okay. Quite soft in places with really big holes and stones and stuff, proper Safari-spec," said Rovanpera.

Evans went off course on the day's final stage and drove into some local flora.

"I think it was more of a bush than a tree, which we can probably be happy about!" he said. "I got crossed up in these tricky ruts."

Oliver Solberg and co-pilot Elliot Edmonson steer their Skoda Fabia Evo
Oliver Solberg and co-pilot Elliot Edmonson steer their Skoda Fabia EvoAFP

Rovanpera was well positioned to increase his advantage in this year's championships after the rocky, sandy and merciless Kenyan roads took their toll on his rivals.

Belgian Thierry Neuville, who started the race second in the standings, retired during the day's fifth stage with a broken suspension.

In addition to his zebra trouble, 2019 world champion Tanak, who started third in the overall standings, suffered a puncture later. He finished the day seventh more than 3 minutes behind Ogier.

Ogier knows momentum can change in Kenya. He fought back from two-and-a-half minutes down to win in 2021 when the rally returned to the world championships.

But in 2022 Ogier was slowed by a puncture and then sand in his engine and finished fourth as Rovanpera won.

Follow the race in Kenya and see the results on Flashscore.

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