Ogier wins 2023 Safari Rally as Toyota makes a 1-2-3-4 finish

Sebastien 0gier from France and his navigator Vincent Landais celebrate after winning this year's WRC Safari Rally Kenya, Sunday, in Naivasha. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Eight-time world champion Sebastien Ogier is the winner of this year's World Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally.

The Toyota Gazoo speedster clocked 3:30:42.5 to emerge champion of the gruelling 1191.06km seventh leg, beating teammate and world champion Kalle Rovanpera by 6.7 seconds, as the race came to an end yesterday, in Naivasha.

Toyota also bagged third and fourth places, which went to Elfyn Evans (3:33:41.0) and Takamoto Katsuta (3:34:06.3), making a three-peat feat in the Kenyan leg.

Sebastien Ogier during this year's rally that ended on Sunday. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

This is the second victory for the daredevil Ogier in the Safari, having won the 2021 edition when the global showpiece returned to the country after a 19-year hiatus.

"It's quite unbelievable, we are happy with the victory," Ogier said at the Wolf Power Stage in Hells Gate, where he was boisterously received by jovial Masai dancers to celebrate his victory.

The Frenchman and his navigator Vincent Landais were awarded their trophies by President William Ruto who graced the closing ceremony in Naivasha.

Toyota first achieved the 1-2-3-4 finish dream in the 1993 Safari Rally edition which was won by Juha Kankkunen.

President William Ruto awards WRC Safari Rally winner Sebastien Ogier and his navigator Vincent Landais in Naivasha. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Last year, the Japenese manufacturer repeated the results through Takamoto, Evans, Ogier and last year's Safari Rally champion Rovanpera.

Four-time world champion Kankkunen was present in Naivasha to watch Toyota make a similar history.

"I was quite sure about that. I knew top three podium positions were ours to lose," Kankkunen told Standard Sports.

"Sweeping the stage is such a very nice feeling, it's the best result a manufacturer can ever get from their enthusiastic drivers. It only means that the cars, the teams and the personnel involved are very reliable, they all have to be in sync for that to happen."

Former world champion Ott Tanak of M-Sport Ford Puma was the first to take over the leaderboard in the Safari Rally after winning the opening Kasarani Super Special Stage on Thursday, but the tables turned the following day when Ogier took control of the charts to bag overall victory in the remaining 18 stages which saw his ultimate crowning.

Sebastien Ogier celebrates victory of the WRC Safari Rally kenya 2023 at the Wolf Power stage on June 25, 2023. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Kenya's Carl Tundo was the best placed local driver after finishing 12th in 4:11:38.6.

The rally was not a bed of roses as Hyundai duo of Thierry Neuville and Esapekka Lappi, who were forced to retire after their machines were badly beaten by the rocky Sleeping Warrior and the fesh fesh filled Kedong stages.

The Hyundai duo returned to the championship under heavy penalties which saw Neuville finish a distant eighth in 3:55:29.5 as Lappi ( 4:12:57.4) ended the contest 13th, just below Tundo.

Greece driver George Vassilakis (Ford Fiesta) was forced out of the championship following a road accident on Saturday along the Naivasha-Nakuru Highway while driving back to the service park. He was evacuated and is in stable condition.

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