It all started with Ott Tanak going for a wild run with Eliud Kipchoge – a global legend in the world of athletics and, conveniently, a citizen of the Republic of Kenya. 2022 WRC Safari Rally Champion Kalle Rovanpera experienced the heat of the fastest man in Africa, Ferdinand Omanyala, who also happens to be a Kenyan, racing his Toyota GR Yaris side by side with the sprinter.
If that wasn't enough, Kenya's top man, President William Ruto, rode shotgun, breaking all security protocol in a Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 with WRC Safari rally first-timer Pierre-Louis Loubet.
If there's anything that can quantify the crews, manufacturers, and drivers' experience in Kenya this season (besides winning the trophy), we hope it's Africa (Toto song).
Here are some memories that made the 2023 WRC Safari Rally Kenya the most epic motorsports event of the year.
In Africa, tripping doesn't mean falling
Fortunately, no one was injured in the event. As fate would have it, the Toyota Gazoo racing team finished in a flying 1-2-3-4 formation for the second time (in a row). Katsuta, whose first name 'Takamoto' translates to 'Want Fire' in Swahili, finished fourth overall.
Pumas having fun, Zebras enjoying themselves
During last Friday's opener, mother nature presented M-Sport Ford driver Ott Tanak with an unusual encounter.
It doesn't matter where you went to driving school. A black and white striped patch across the road always means, stop, Zebra Crossing. But what happens when you stumble upon real-life Zebras while competing for a championship win? You do what Tanak did – slow down!
Hyundai Motorsport’s flat-out savanna run
Lappi might have immensely suffered from propeller shaft-related issues throughout the competition, but if there's one thing that stood out from his performance – it was speed. From SS5 to SS10, the Finn rally driver was never outside the top four.
He finished second-best in half of these stages and even bagged a stage win (Geothermal Stage), which he joked was more Finland than Kenya. However, it's Spanish driver Dani Sordo's flat-out that showed the world the Hyundai i20 N is indeed a beast on wheels.
Toyota Gazoo Racing GR Yaris helicopter showdown
Well, during the WRC races, Helicopters take to the sky to give spectators at home a 360-degree experience of the live action – but what happens when another photographer captures the action aircraft, capturing the racing action?
They say a picture tells a thousand stories. We are confident the image below will answer the question above.
Rallying is too cool for school
With rally cars buzzing every quarter of an hour, school kids close to the rally stages couldn't keep calm. With one of the rally stages just a couple of meters away from their school, these school kids' teachers couldn't keep them from enjoying the excitement of the 2023 WRC rally – within the confines of the school premises.
Not even the razor wire fence could prevent them from enjoying the thrill of the spirit of motorsport.
Wildlife is wildlife regardless of size
Frenchman, and Hyundai Motorsport driver, Thierry Neuville had his own share of little troubles with a tiny but deadly insect – an African Honey Bee. We all know the havoc an insect can cause while driving. For Neuville, it was 8.7 seconds shaved off his overall time trying to concentrate on the task ahead despite all the buzzing.
Rain, Puddles, and Mambo jamming in the mud
Despite winning in a flying 1-2-3-4 formation, the Toyota Gazoo Racing team had the most challenging time wadding through the wild African savanna waters. The winning team suffered the wrath of the ghosts of rally Italy Sardinia where they were plagued with water splash issues.
The Safari rally event was generally hot and dry at the onset. However, on the penultimate day, mother nature threw some curve balls at the drivers with showers on Friday night and light rains on Saturday morning.
Raw breathtaking power slides
It's hard to pick out the best pictures of the 2023 WRC Safari Rally – there are hundreds of thousands, but if there's a picture that showed the thrill of rallying mated to the rawness of the African boonies – it has to be Toyota Gazoo Racing's Power slide shot above.
Ogier's dramatic stone in the windshield finish
Fortunately for Sébastien Ogier, that devastating finish wasn't going onto the list of unfortunate events in his career – but a stern warning from the African boonies not to over-gloat at his relentless performance.
On the final stretch to the finish line, Toyota Gazoo Racing driver Ogier hit a stone that flung-crashed his GR Yaris' windscreen. He pushed on with a rock stuck on the windshield to the finish line. What a way to win the 2023 WRC Safari Rally!
Hollywood and the media have done an excellent job of making Africa feel like a lost continent ragging with hunger, political instability, and war – ironically, where animals and humans live in perfect harmony. Africans sarcastically thrive and have embraced that visualization of themselves.
The crews, manufacturers, first-timers, and drivers have a different story to tell about the 2023 WRC Safari rally. Those who attended the event will be nursing withdrawal symptoms all week. This here is another collection of memories that make Africa, Kenya, and its people, such a vibe.