Ogier tyre gamble reaps Safari reward
By Jason Craig
Saturday 24th June, 2023 - 12:45am
Sebastien Ogier has taken full credit for a shrewd but risky tyre gamble that enabled him to pull clear of his Rally1 rivals on the Friday afternoon loop of Safari Rally Kenya.
Ogier, a winner of the event when it returned to the World Rally Championship in 2021 for the first time in almost two decades, ended the opening day 22.8 seconds clear of Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mate Kalle Rovanpera.
The pair arrived at the midday service separated by only 2.5s due to the energy recovery system on Ogier’s GR Yaris Rally1 failing on the first pass over ‘Kedong’.
Prior to that, he had led the Finn by 11.9s after successfully managing to avoid punctures and potentially costly damage up to that point.
For the afternoon loop, Ogier elected to run with only one spare, and it immediately paid off as he recorded scratch times on the rerun of ‘Loldia’, ‘Geothermal’ and ‘Kedong’ to re-establish his safety net.
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“It was definitely not the team decision (to only take one spare),” said the eight-time world champion.
“It was my feeling, and the feeling was that the first stage wasn’t actually too rough if you stay on the line. It is pretty clean, there are no loose rocks, so you can control the risk of a puncture.
“My feeling was telling me, ‘Only one spare, drive clean, push less than if you had two (spare tyres)’, and it worked so I am happy.
“I cannot say recently I have had so much luck with tyres and issues, so today was good but Saturday is the big day here.”
Despite having a reasonably comfortable buffer to manage over the course of Saturday, the longest leg of the weekend both in terms of distance and time, Ogier is not taking a second victory at the gravel classic for granted.
“Yes, definitely,” he said when it was put to him that Friday was near-perfect.
“The only negative point for us was the hybrid issue in the morning, but other than that it was a very good run and all was working smoothly on the car so, so far so good.
“Of course, tomorrow (Saturday) is a big day, there is still a very long way to go. Let’s say that unless you have five minutes (lead) then you can start to drive very slow.
“But there is nothing safe here. Twenty seconds is nice but it is definitely not that much here.”