Mother Nature Throwing Curve Balls At 2023 WRC Safari Rally, Ogier Says Bring it on

The penultimate leg of the 2023 WRC Safari Rally Kenya just kicked off at 08:00 local time in Naivasha, Kenya. Saturday marks the longest and most harrowing leg of the 70th edition of the Safari Rally. Showers earlier in the morning meant the experience would switch from dusty torrid to Mambo dancing in the mud.
2023 WRC Safari Rally Kenya 8 photos
Photo: Twitter/@SebOgier
2023 WRC Safari Rally Kenya2023 WRC Safari Rally Kenya2023 WRC Safari Rally Kenya2023 WRC Safari Rally Kenya2023 WRC Safari Rally Kenya2023 WRC Safari Rally Kenya2023 WRC Safari Rally Kenya
It was no secret that the second last day of the WRC Safari rally would be the most grueling course of the 70th edition. After the Kasarani Super Special two-at-a-time event on Thursday, Ott Tanak hinted it would determine the winner, and if the latest performances are anything to go by – the Toyota Gazoo Racing team with Ogier at the helm seems destined for another groundbreaking victory.

Saturdays' leg is the most extended course of the competition spanning 150.88 kilometers (94 miles). The leg begins with the 29.32-kilometer (18.21 miles) Soysambu stage, with a blast over the 15.08-kilometer (9 miles) Great Rift Valley Lake Elementaitat track, followed by the iconic Sleeping Warrior hill (31.04 kilometers / 19 miles), that'll be repeated after service.

Compared to Friday, sections of the special stages near Lake Elementaita were reduced to mudbaths, catching some competitors off guard. On the Soysambu test earlier Saturday morning, French rally driver Sebastien Ogier impressively outpaced his Toyota teammate and 2022 Safari Rally Champ, Kalle Rovanpera, by 7.6 seconds even after struggling with tire damage on his GR Yaris.

"I think we could push a bit more, but for sure, Seb is pushing a lot for this win. In our case, we need to think about the championship also because the guys in the championship are much more behind, and the good points are coming." Rovanpera said in a tweet.

At Lake Elementaita and Sleeping Warrior Hill, the eight-time world champion traded a handful of seconds with Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate Rovanpera. Still, he had a 22.1-second lead advantage when he got to service.

Rovanpera won two out of three speed tests on Saturday morning. He was still leading the championship coming into the seventh round, and as a result, on course to strengthen his points lead.

Toyota Gazoo Racing will have to return to the drawing board after suffering the wrath of the ghosts of the previous rally (Italy Sardinia), where they were plagued with water splash issues. Welshman Elfyn Evan's GR Yaris had to stop briefly towards the end of the Soysambu stage due to the same.

That set him back one minute, pulling him back to the fourth position, right behind Esapekka Lappi. If that wasn't enough, a slow puncture on the rear wheel ensured he was behind Lappi by 49 seconds going into the afternoon loop.

GR Yaris driver Takamoto Katusuta managed to bridge the gap with Hyundai Motorsport driver, Dani Sordo, securing the fifth, while the i20 N driver took sixth position overall.

Ott Tanak's morning was about recovery after a disenchanting run on Friday. M-Sport drivers Tanak and Pierre-Louis Loubets stood steady at seventh and eighth positions, respectively.

"It is a challenge to get through, for sure. It was so muddy that I ran out of washer fluid, so I had no visibility for the last 20km. It's what a Safari should be." Tanak confessed in a tweet.

If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram X (Twitter)
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.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories