Why 2023 WRC Safari Rally was the toughest

Takamoto Katsuta and his navigator Aaron Johnston check on their damaged car during the WRC Safari Rally. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

With Frenchman Sebastian Ogier declared the WRC Safari Rally champion at the weekend, the bitter contest on the homestretch showed only the strongest could survive one of the toughest and roughest rallies in the world.

Out of the 34 cars that commenced the over 1,000km contest at Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi last Thursday, only 24 successfully drove their machines to the end on the rocky and dusty terrains of Naivasha.

It was tougher owing to the lengthy, rocky and dusty routes in the middle of the jungle in the scotching sun that at times saw some drivers suffer some puncture, break body parts of their machines and wasted time.

The most interesting part of the rally was the power stage where drivers were judged by the power of their machines and how one could drive faster in the rocky terrain.

Ten drivers, among them three Kenyans, dropped out owing to one reason or another. The Kenyan drivers were Kenya National Rally Championships champion Karan Patel, who drove Ford Fiesta R5 No. 25, ace Hamza Anwar Ford Fiesta No 35 and Jeremy Wahome in Ford Fiesta No 36. Others were Thierry Neuville Hyundai 120N No. 11, Jourdan Serderidis in Ford Puma No. 9, Georgios Vasilakis of Greece in Ford Fiesta Mk II No. 29, Gregoire Munster in Ford Fiesta Mk II Car 22, Diaz Aboitiz in a Skoda Fabia Evo No. 28 and Diancario Davite on a Ford Fiesta No 40.

Japanese ace Takamoto Katsuta, who finished fourth at the event, said this year's rally was tougher than last year's.

"Compared with last year, the event was tougher in all sections and some routes, but the power stage was the most interesting bit," he said.

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