Ogier wins Safari to make it three wins out of five

Sebastien Ogier and co-driver Vincent Landais have won the Safari Rally. Image: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Sebastien Ogier held on for his second Safari Rally victory – and his 58th in the World Rally Championship in total – despite Toyota team-mate Kalle Rovanpera’s best efforts.

Rovanpera, the defending world champion, started Sunday’s final leg trailing Ogier by 16.7s and was on the attack from the outset.

Despite the rough conditions, Rovanpera gave his all through today’s opener to narrow Ogier’s advantage to 8.6s.

Ogier responded on SS15, outgunning Rovanpera, also by 8.6s, to lead by 17.2s. But the Frenchman’s endeavour came at the expense of his Toyota’s tailgate, which was ripped off swiping a tree during the stage.

With Rovanpera going quicker than Ogier through SS16, essentially a Power Stage rehearsal, Ogier’s lead had been trimmed to 13.6s heading into the deciding three-stage loop this afternoon.

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Rovanpera was quicker than Ogier again on SS17, this time taking the stage win with an effort 0.6s faster than Ogier could manage to cut the gap to 13.0s.

Despite completing SS18 with his front-left Pirelli off the rim, Rovanpera managed to further eat into Ogier’s margin to the extent just 9.2s separated the Yaris drivers starting the Power Stage.

But Ogier came through the 10.53-kilometre Hell’s Gate decider with 6.7s in hand to land his third victory out of five starts this season and move up to fourth in the championship standings, 42 points behind Rovanpera, who finished runner-up.

“We had a lot of issues to face but it could have been a more comfortable rally for us in terms of pace,” Ogier told the WRC All Live service. “A lot of misfortune but we brought it home, even on the Power Stage I got a stone on the windscreen.”

Rovanpera added: “I just felt I didn’t have any power for the whole of the [Power Stage]. A bit of a disappointing end to the weekend. You always want to fight for the win but we did our best starting first car on the road, so regarding that I think it’s not fully bad. Good points for the season anyway.”

Elfyn Evans bounced back from a half-spin on SS14 to complete a Toyota podium lockout with Takamota Katsuta, making it a quartet of Yaris Rally1s in the top four, despite a loss of hybrid on SS16, as his run of Safari podiums came to an end.

Dani Sordo was delayed through SS16 with a powersteering fault although the subsequent service meant his Hyundai was working as it should for the final trio of stages, which the Spaniard completed in fifth position.

M-Sport Ford drivers Ott Tanak and Pierre-Louis Loubet placed sixth and seventh respectively, albeit firmly out of contention following another tough event for the British team. Loubet’s latest issue occurred on the penultimate stage, which he was forced to complete in road mode after an alarm.

There was more strife for Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi following his restart this morning after propshaft failure caused him to stop on Saturday afternoon. Although he got through the morning loop, he did so with a recurrence of yesterday’s fault.

Lappi’s team-mate, Thierry Neuville, fared a little better, however. After stopping with broken suspension on Friday, the Belgian came home eighth and added five potentially crucial Power Stage points to his tally for winning the deciding test in his bid to keep his fading title hopes alive.

Kajetan Kajetanowicz won WRC2 in ninth overall as Oliver Solberg completed the top 10.

The WRC returns to Europe and to Estonia’s fast-paced gravel stages for part two of the season from July 20-23.

Results: 2023 FIA World Rally Championship Round 7 Safari Rally Kenya

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