Kalle Rovanpera storms to WRC Safari Rally victory

NAIROBI, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Finland's Kalle Rovanpera completed a dominant victory at the 2022 Safari Rally on Sunday to increase his chances of lifting the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship title.

The 21-year-old led a top-four sweep for his Toyota Gazoo Racing Team, the first time in 29 years that a single manufacturer has achieved that feat at the "world's toughest rally."

Rovanpera achieved victory in a cumulative time of 3:40:24.9 for his fourth victory of the WRC season.

"It feels great. I have to say, this was the hardest rally I have ever done and if I am honest, we just have to thank the team. To have four cars like this with no issues means it is the strongest and fastest car. The team did a fantastic job," said Rovanpera.

Welshman Elfyn Evans finished second, 52.8 seconds adrift. Japan's Takamoto Katsuta finished third (+1:42.7) while the 2021 Safari Rally winner, Sebastien Ogier, finished fourth (2:10.3).

Despite feeling unwell, Rovanpera strengthened his position on Saturday and thrived in waterlogged conditions as downpours derailed many of his rivals' hopes.

The sizable 40.3sec margin he carried into Sunday's finale was extended further by another two fastest times, and the youngster ended the bruising four-day event 52.8sec clear of Evans to head up the Yaris quartet.

The Finn extends his championship to 65 points with seven rounds remaining, while Toyota are now 62 points clear at the top of the manufacturers' standings.

Hyundai Motorsport's Thierry Neuville was over 10 minutes behind in fifth overall, despite incurring a 10-minute penalty when he crashed into a tree and failed to finish Saturday's Sleeping Warrior finale.

The championship will return to Europe when Rally Estonia (July 14-17) kicks off the second half of the 2022 WRC season.

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