In Case You Missed It: 9 Iconic Images That Best Immortalize the 2023 WRC Safari Rally

The curtains went down for the 70th edition of the WRC Safari Rally Kenya on Sunday. It was a beautiful showdown for most people worldwide that saw Toyota Gazoo Racing Team make history with another quartet finish. It was indeed a spectacular performance that proved the tiny GR Yaris was a relentless unwavering badger the torrid stages of Africa couldn't tame. But besides all the heat, moody weather, and tormenting stages, this year's rally left a mark in the participants' hearts – regardless of the livery on their rally cars.
2023 WRC Safari Rally 17 photos
Photo: WRC
2023 WRC Safari Rally2023 WRC Safari Rally2023 WRC Safari Rally2023 WRC Safari Rally2023 WRC Safari Rally2023 WRC Safari Rally2023 WRC Safari Rally2023 WRC Safari Rally2023 WRC Safari Rally2023 WRC Safari Rally2023 WRC Safari Rally2023 WRC Safari Rally2023 WRC Safari Rally2023 WRC Safari RallyRovanpera Vs OmanyalaThierry Neuville
The 70th season of the WRC Safari rally will go down as the most iconic edition of the beloved sport. And as the crews and participants gather what was left of the fascinating showdown in motorsports in Africa, we are confident that their experiences this season in the African boonies will be etched forever in their hearts.

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

2023 WRC Safari Rally
Photo: Twitter/@wrcsafarirally
A Swahili saying goes, "Kuteguka, sio kuanguka," which loosely means a stumble doesn't necessarily mean a fall. Well, the Toyota Gazoo Racing team's misfortunes started on day one at the Wednesday Shakedown stage after Takamoto Katsuta barrel-rolled his Toyota GR Yaris.

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
2023 WRC Safari Rally
Photo: WRC
If you go to Africa, be prepared to meet wildlife regardless of location. Despite how beautiful Nairobi, Kenya looks nestled in lush green forests, with skyscrapers protruding and expressways roping from edge to edge, the rally stages were set an hour away from the busy central business district, in a wildlife sanctuary in Naivasha.

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

2023 WRC Safari Rally
Photo: WRC
The Safari rally is all about motorsport action in the bush. It's what the fuss was all about last weekend. There were a lot of incredible runs in the 70th season of the WRC Safari rally. Still, none came perfectly close to Hyundai Motorsport, Finnish rally driver Esapekka Lappi's Geothermal Stage win.

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

2023 WRC Safari Rally
Photo: WRC
If you did some literature in school, you probably know about 'Story within a story,' or historically, a frame story.

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

2023 WRC Safari Rally
Photo: WRC
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All school work and no rally time makes Kenyan school kids a cranky bunch.

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

Thierry Neuville
Photo: Twitter/@thierryneuville
Ott Tanak might not have encountered the 'Big Five Game,' but he came face to face with an unusual but familiar road sign – a herd of real-life Zebras grazing on the rally stage tracks.

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

2023 WRC Safari Rally
Photo: WRC
The WRC Safari Rally Kenya is one of the most challenging courses in the competition. If you are not baked and blinded by the torrid dusty stages, you are blasting through seasonal rivers or taking a wild dip in the murky mud baths.

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

2023 WRC Safari Rally
Photo: WRC
The Safari rally presents its own hurdles for the drivers. It's never an easy task – ask Thierry Neuville, who was forced to pull out mid-competition. But these kinds of experiences give the sport a cultic following and the front pages of the daily ogle-worthy action images.

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

2023 WRC Safari Rally
Photo: WRC
Bad things can happen to good people – it's life. If you are a sports fanatic, you understand that competition has a dark sense of humor. We've all seen sports participants lose it all right at the finish line. It's an unfortunate predicament, but in the spirit of sportsmanship, we don't wallow and cry over losses, regardless of how close we are to achieving greatness.

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.

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About the author: Humphrey Bwayo
Humphrey Bwayo profile photo

Humphrey is a car enthusiast whose love and passion for automobiles extended into collecting, writing, driving, and working on cars. He got his passion for cars from his Dad, who spent thousands of hours working on his old junky 1970 E20 Toyota Corolla. Years later, he would end up doing the same with a series of lemons he’s owned throughout his adult life.
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