Fri 30 Jun 2023

Talking points from Safari Rally Kenya

Round seven of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship just kept on giving, both on and off the stages. Join us as we look back on some of the key talking points from Safari Rally Kenya.

Star Drive
Triumph number 58 ranks highly in Sébastien Ogier’s long list of career victories, not least because the Frenchman had to work so hard to achieve it. Eight-time world champion Ogier is no stranger to a challenge, but Kenya’s 70th edition provided the ultimate test.

Tyre dramas, a missing tailgate (see below) and an overheating engine were just some of the challenges faced by the 39-year-old, who now drives part-time for the Japanese marque, en route to his second Safari win.

It was, in Ogier’s own words, “one hell of a weekend”, but one which he took extra pleasure from by beating such odds. He definitely deserves a well-earned holiday before his (currently unconfirmed) next outing!

Most memorable stage
As is often the case in Kenya, a sudden downpour in Saturday’s closing 31.04km Sleeping Warrior caused chaos. The dry and dusty roads quickly turned to mud and offered minimal grip in conditions akin to ice.

Cars were sliding everywhere, Takamoto Katsuta and Pierre-Louis Loubet both experienced costly spins while Ott Tänak and Thierry Neuville had off-road ‘moments’ in the very last corner.  

Ogier, the last of the of the Rally1 cars into the stage, was perhaps hit harder by the conditions than any of his rivals and limped to the finish line with two slow punctures. It meant the Frenchman's advantage over team-mate Kalle Rovanperä was sliced in half after conceding more than 15sec, setting up a final-day thriller.

Best save
Ogier may have recorded his third victory from just five starts so far this season but his rally very nearly unravelled in Sunday’s second special stage when a patch of Kenya’s infamous fesh-fesh sand sent his GR Yaris wide on a right-hand bend.

The Frenchman, fighting hard to recover time lost to Rovanperä in the rocky opener, clipped a tree and ripped off his car’s entire rear tailgate. Amazingly winning the stage and making all the time back, he then patched the gap using a bin liner to keep dust at bay in Hell’s Gate 1.

Safari Rally Kenya 2023: Event Highlights

You’ll never believe it
Esapekka Lappi’s Safari debut was plagued by not one, not two, but four propshaft-related failures.

Any hopes of a clean run through Wednesday’s shakedown went begging when the transmission component failed shortly into his first passage. Repairs were made in the remote service but the Finn’s Hyundai i20 N stopped once again shortly afterwards with similar issues.

Lappi had climbed to an impressive third overall by Saturday afternoon but was ruled out in Soysambu 2 with another propshaft failure. Then, after rejoining on Sunday, it happened again in the day’s opening stage.

Number of the rally
41: Kalle Rovanperä’s nifty points lead after finishing second overall among a Toyota 1-2-3-4 at round seven of 13. The Finn’s advantage was bolstered after event stewards disqualified Thierry Neuville on Sunday evening.

Action compilation: WRC Safari Rally Kenya 2023
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Hungary
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