Ogier edges Rovanpera to win Safari Rally Kenya

Ogier edges Rovanpera to win Safari Rally Kenya

Sebastien Ogier edged Kalle Rovanpera to win the Safari Rally Kenya giving Toyota a second consecutive 1-2-3-4 finish.

After a tight conclusion to the World Rally Championship’s toughest race, Sebastien Ogier maintained his composure to defeat Toyota teammate Kalle Rovanpera and win Safari Rally Kenya.

Over the course of Sunday’s final six stages, championship leader Rovanpera put pressure on eight-time world champion and co-driver Vincent Landais, who ultimately prevailed by 6.7 seconds to claim the third victory of the 2023 WRC season.

On the difficult, uneven gravel stretches of Kenya, Ogier drove flawlessly taking the rally lead from M-Sport’s Ott Tanak on Friday’s early-morning first test with road-opener Rovanpera in second.

The Frenchman had an almost flawless Friday, winning four out of the six stages thanks in part to a brilliant decision to take just one spare tire rather of two, which lightened his GR Yaris. His biggest problem was a lack of hybrid at the end of the morning loop.

After that, Ogier established himself as the race’s leader pushing his lead over Rovanpera to 32.0 seconds despite getting a flat tyre before the much-anticipated rain ruined Saturday’s final stage.

Rovanpera won the stage but Ogier lost time due to a double front puncture, cutting the lead in half to 16.7 seconds after a brilliant performance in extremely dangerous conditions.

Rovanpera continued to push on Sunday, closing the lead to 8.1 seconds. Ogier then responded by winning stage 15, despite damaging his rear wing and tailgate after hitting a tree, as Rovanpera was content with the good championship points he earned by coming in second.

Before the last stage, the advantage went down to to 9.2 seconds but Ogier clung to the lead despite a rock damaging his car to claim the title. Due to his car’s lack of power, Rovanpera could only manage the third-fastest time on the powerstage, but he still increased his championship lead to 37 points.

Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta came in third and fourth replicating the 1-2-3-4 Toyota finish from the previous year’s competition.

Evans and Katsuta’s drive was not an easy one. Evans held onto third place and kept pace with the leaders until early Saturday morning, when his GR Yaris stalled on stage eight after absorbing too much water in a splash.

Evans lost further time to a puncture and also just avoided a pair of incidents that would have destroyed his rear wing before finishing third, 2m58.5s behind the leaders.

The rally was dramatic for Katsuta as well, and it all started when the Japanese driver rolled his GR Yaris during the shakedown on Wednesday.

On Friday, his car sustained considerable damage as a result of a broken lower suspension arm, an incident with a zebra, and a crash into a tree. But despite being handicapped by a leaking radiator on the final stage, two stage victories during a lot more uneventful Saturday and Sunday saw him finish fourth, 3m23.8s back.

Toyota’s domination was in sharp contrast to Hyundai’s and M-Sport Ford’s misfortune and reliability issues.

Dani Sordo spearheaded Hyundai’s charge to finish fifth (+5m05.4s), despite his rally performance being hampered by his Friday incident in which he got lost in his own dust followed by a Sunday power steering problem. Sordo was only one of the i20 N to finish the 355.92 kilometers.

The championship contention of Thierry Neuville was derailed when he retired from fourth place on Friday owing to a broken front-left suspension. The Belgian re-entered the rally, made a full recovery, finished nint, and collected the five bonus points for taking first place in the powerstage.

After a twin prop shaft failure prevented him from participating in shakedown, teammate Esapekka Lappi made his Kenyan debut and occasionally impressed.

Lappi who also had a puncture after Evans’ stoppage took up third place but on Saturday a third prop shaft failure forced him to quit. On Sunday, the Finn returned to battle but ran into yet another mechanical problem.

Tanak’s victory over Ogier in Thursday’s Nairobi superspecial gave M-Sport’s rally a strong start. However, the Estonian’s rally came to a close on Friday when he was stopped by a pig and a group of zebra before getting a puncture, which lost the Estonian more than two minutes after he had already been having trouble with the handling of his Ford Puma.

unable to rival the dominant group after a comeback, Tanak moved up to sixth (+9m14.4s, ahead of Pierre-Louis Loubet, who lost time due to a power issue, two punctures and handling problems.

Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Oliver Solberg, two of the top WRC2 contenders rounded out the top 10.

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