Safari Rally Kenya Toyota Sweeps Podium
The 2023 running of Safari Rally Kenya has come to an end. Sebastien Ogier would take the top step of the Toyota-filled podium.
The 2023 running of Safari Rally Kenya would start with a single 4.84km SuperSpecial in Nairobi. Ott Tänak would take the win on stage, to take a 0.1-second lead over Sebastien Ogier into the first full day of stages.
The second day of Safari Rally Kenya would see drivers race 125.54km across 6 stages. Sebastien Ogier would win 4 of the 6 stages during the day, moving Ogier into first, 22.8 seconds ahead of Kalle Rovanperä. Ott Tänak would fall over three minutes behind Ogier due to a puncture. Kalle Rovanperä and Esapekka Lappi would also each win a stage during the day. Thierry Neuville would temporarily retire from the rally on SS6 due to a suspension issue.
The third day of Safari Rally Kenya would see drivers race 150.88km across six stages. Kalle Rovanperä would close the gap between him and Ogier down from 22.8 to 16.7 seconds. Rovanperä would do this by winning 3 of the 6 stages on the day. Sebastien Ogier took two stage wins during the day, Takamoto Katsuta would also take home a stage win. Esapekka Lappi would temporarily retire on SS11 due to a mechanical issue. Lappi’s retirement would pretty much seal the deal on a Toyota 1-2-3-4 finish once again.
The fourth and final day of Safari Rally Kenya would see drivers race 75.72km across six stages. Sebastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanperä would continue to battle for the rally lead. Ogier would ultimately come out on top. Although the eight-time champion would only take a single stage win during the day. Ott Tänak and Kalle Rovanperä would both win two stages during the day. Takamoto Katsuta would also take a stage win. One of Tänak’s stage wins would come during the Powerstage. Meaning Tänak would take home an additional 5 points from the event.
Thierry Neuville would be disqualified from the rally for illegal recce. Neuville had requested somebody to go on the stages after recce to see where rocks were moved. Per Article 35.4.2 of the 2023 FIA WRC Sporting Regulations, states that: “After the publication of the Supplementary Regulations, only with the express authorisation of the Clerk of the Course and the FIA Rally Department may any person connected with an entered crew travel on or over the route of a special stage of the rally (except on foot). This rule shall apply until that special stage is terminated, open for public traffic and will no longer be used within the rally.” This would come as a blow for Neuville, who would’ve sat 2nd in the Drivers’ Championship, 37 points behind Kalle Rovanperä. Neuville’s disqualification would also mean Ott Tänak would take the Powerstage win. As Neuville had won the powerstage, but the disqualification would result in Tänak having the quickest time on the stage.
Trouble For Hyundai
Neuville’s disqualification wouldn’t be the only trouble for Hyundai during Safari Rally Kenya. As Esapekka Lappi would also experience trouble during the event. Lappi went into day three, fourth overall 10.5 seconds behind Elfyn Evans. On SS8 Evans would stall after a water crossing. This would cause Evans to lose 40.7 seconds to Lappi as a result. Evans and Lappi would battle for third for the rest of day three’s morning loop. With Lappi leading Evans by 49.7 seconds heading into the afternoon loop. Unfortunately, Lappi would be forced to retire on SS11 due to a mechanical issue. This would promote Evans back to third overall, and pretty much confirm a Toyota podium sweep.
Drivers’ Championship Standings
Coming into Safari Rally Kenya the championship could’ve gone a couple different directions. As 33 separated first and third place. After Safari Rally Kenya the championship is now Kalle Rovanperä’s to lose. As now 42 points separate 1st and 3rd. Elfyn Evans would move into second overall, now sitting 41 points behind Rovanperä. Ott Tänak would remain in third, although he is now tied with Sebastien Ogier, 42 points behind Rovanperä. Thierry Neuville would drop from second to fifth in the championship as a result of taking home no points due to his previously mentioned disqualification. Neuville sits 47 points back from Rovanperä. Realistically the championship still can go any way, but 41 points is a pretty good lead for Rovanperä. Add that to the fact that the next event Rally Estonia is one Rovanperä has won the last two years in a row, and it’s gonna be hard for Rovanperä to drop out of first.
Drivers’ Championship Standings
- K Rovanperä 140
- E. Evans 99
- S. Ogier 98
- O. Tänak 98
- T. Neuville 93
Safari Rally Kenya WRC1 Recaps
Safari Rally Kenya Day One Recap
Safari Rally Kenya Day Two Morning Loop Recap
Safari Rally Kenya Day Two Afternoon Loop Recap
Safari Rally Kenya Day Three Morning Loop Recap
Safari Rally Kenya Day Three Afternoon Loop Recap
Safari Rally Kenya Day Four Morning Loop Recap
Safari Rally Kenya Day Four Afternoon Loop Recap