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WRC Safari Rally: World Champion Sebastien Ogier headed for Kenya

SPORTS By Ochieng Oyugi | May 10th 2021
Air-borne: A WRC Toyota Yaris. [Courtesy]

Reigning World Rally Champion (WRC) Sebastien Ogier is among top drivers who will comb the unforgiving terrains of Naivasha in search of glory at the forthcoming Safari Rally championship.

The event, which is slated for June 24-27, makes a comeback to Kenya after a 19-year hiatus.

The French speed merchant, who will be navigated by compatriot Julien Ingrassia, will compete under the global banner of the WRC Toyota Gazoo Racing Team.

Ahead of his visit, Toyota Kenya Monday unveiled the 2019 WRC Yaris GR winning replica, flown from Finland, which Ogier will compete in.

The Safari Rally will traverse the tracks of Naivasha including the rocky Sleeping Warrior, the volcanic Malewa zone and the scenic Soysambu Conservancy.

The 1.6 litre, Turbo-charged, permanent four-wheel-drive Yaris packs a road-splitting 475 Newton/metre torque.

"Rear wings help in keeping the vehicle on the ground,"  Toyota Kenya Sales and Product Trainer Sukhjiv Singh Kular told Standard Sports.

The car’s amazing development was spearheaded by ex WRC champion Tommy Makkinen and is currently being furthered by Matti Latrova.

On its debut in 2019, the car won two WRC events. It also bagged the manufacturer title and a drivers title in 2019 and 2020.

Ogier is hopeful of winning in the Kenyan event to increase his chances of bagging eight WRC Driver’s Championship titles following his victories in the category in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2020. 

The 38-year old also has 51 wins in the WRC and six consecutive titles.

The feats place him as the second most successful WRC driver, after former Citroën WRC teammate Sébastien Loeb (nine titles).

Apart from Ogier, other drivers who will compete at the Safari in a Yaris GR are Elfyin Evans of Wales navigated by Scott Martin of United Kingdom and Kalle Rovanpera of Finland, whose pace notes will be called out by compatriot Jonne Halttunen.

Toyota has an enviable record of eight Safari Rally victories through Kenya’s Ian Duncan, Juha Kankkunen of Finland and the late Bjorn ‘Walle’ Waldegard of Sweden.

The company also prides itself as a six-time drivers championship winner and a three-time manufacturer title champion.

Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed hailed the return of Toyota to the Safari.

“Over the years, the company has continued to build strong and reliable motorsports cars.”

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