Could Toyota Make A Tough Decision In Kenya?

June 25, 2023Joe Moore

We are hours away from the start of the fourth and final day of Safari Rally Kenya, but there could be a tough decision made by Toyota before or during the day.

What Tough Decision Does Toyota Have?

Toyota could get Sebastien Oiger and Kalle Rovanperä to swap places on the final day of the event. Ogier leads Rovanperä by 16.7 seconds heading into the final day of Safari Rally Kenya. 

Why This Could Happen

Kalle Rovanperä (FIN) Jonne Halttunen (FIN) Of team TOYOTA GAZOO RACING WRT is seen during the World Rally Championship Kenya in Naivasha, Kenya on 23 June, 2023 // Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Content Pool

There are a couple of cases why Toyota could want this to happen. With the main reason being Rovanperä needs the championship points more than Ogier at this point in time. Rovanperä leads the 2023 WRC Drivers’ Championship by just 25 points over Thierry Neuville. Neuville currently sits 9th overall, 4 minutes and 13.1 seconds behind Kajetan Kajetanowicz who sits 8th. This means Neuville will likely only take ninth place points (2) and likely powerstage points home in Kenya. Provisionally this finish would put Neuville in a tie for third place with Sebastien Ogier, with both drivers having 95 points, 3 less than Elfyn Evans. If Toyota elects to swap Rovanperä and Ogier, Neuville would likely take sole possession of third. If Rovanperä were to win the event and take home 25 points he’d sit 45 points up on Evans, as opposed to 38 if he took second-place points. Toyota could make this swap happen in a couple different ways, the easiest way would be for Ogier to take a penalty or two and get behind Rovanperä and just lay off a bit. Ogier could also just lay off a bit at the start of SS14. 

Why This Likely Won’t Happen

Although having Rovanperä and Ogier swap places makes sense for Rovanperä’s championship push, it likely won’t happen. Rarely do teams actually do this sort of move because it is risky. A recent example of this scenario playing out came at Rally Sweden earlier this season. When Hyundai decided to have Craig Breen and Thierry Neuville attempt to swap spots. Unfortunately for Neuville and Hyundai, it didn’t work out, as Breen still finished second and Neuville third. This decision may not even be something Toyota talks about due to the risk involved with it. Sure Toyota has a hard lock on the podium at Safari Rally Kenya this weekend, but there is still a risk involved. There’s also no guarantee the swap would work like the previously mentioned example didn’t. There’s also the question of will Rovanperä and Ogier agree to have this happen. As even a second place finish for Rovanperä isn’t a bad result championship wise. It’ll be the question of do Ogier, Rovanperä and Toyota think 7 or so points will increase Rovanperä’s championship hopes by an amount that’s worth it for all involved. 

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