Things took a dramatic turn on Friday morning. After an intense chase down between namesakes Sebastien Loeb and Ogier at the Thursday evening head-to-head super special, Loeb drew first blood plowing through the sweltering heaps of dust on the Friday morning opener, edging Ogier's teammate Elfyn Evans by two-tenths of a second.
Friday mishaps began after Loeb dinged the rear quarters of his M-Sport Ford Puma on a tree. Ott Tanak followed suit, snapping his Hyundai i20 N gear lever. In the afternoon, Toyota Gazoo Racing driver Evan suffered a puncture, offering teammate Ogier another chance at the top spot. The French rally driver led for a majority of the early six stages.
They say, "it's not over until it's done." Well, late in the day, youngest WRC event winner, Kalle Rovanpera, slithered in between the leading trio bagging three stage wins and snatching the top spot after teammate Ogier stopped to change a wheel during the 31.25 km (19.41 mi) Kedong final stage.
After Wednesday's recce, Ogier told WRC he was anticipating a rougher three-day rally. True to his words, the scenic Lake Naivasha side tracks though picturesque was intolerant and unrelentingly punishing to the crews. Despite the mounting pressure, Toyota Gazoo's GR Yaris cars performed pretty well.
Finnish driver Rovanpera begins the Saturday monster leg with a 22.4-second buffer over Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate Evans, whose closely followed by Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT's Ott Tanak at +25.3 seconds.