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WRC Rally Kenya

Ogier: "I've rarely had to fight like this" for WRC victory in Kenya

Sebastien Ogier labelled his Safari Rally Kenya victory as a “hell of a fight” after surviving probably the “highest amount of things thrown at me” in a World Rally Championship event.

The eight-time world champion scored this third win of a partial WRC campaign after seeing off Toyota team-mate and championship leader Kalle Rovanpera by 6.7s in a gruelling battle in Kenya.

While Ogier led the event from stage two, the Frenchman encountered a series of problems that threatened to derail his victory hopes.

Ogier enjoyed a near-perfect Friday, winning four of the six stages, but a loss of hybrid power cost him time. On Saturday, he suffered three punctures including a double front puncture that occurred when heavy rain created chaos during stage 13.

This, combined with a charging Rovanpera, reduced Ogier’s commanding 32.0s lead to 16.7s heading into Sunday.

Rovanpera applied even more pressure to halve the deficit again on Sunday’s first stage, before Ogier clipped a tree which removed the entire spoiler and tailgate of his GR Yaris.

Ogier was able to respond to win the next stage but in the penultimate stage his car began to overheat after ingesting Kenya’s famous fesh fesh sand. In the final stage a rock smashed his windscreen, but it failed to rob him of a hard-fought victory.

“I cannot rank it compared to others. For sure we have had some difficult weekends and still win, but definitely this one, the amount of things thrown at me, was probably the highest of any event,” said Ogier.

“Honestly, up to the last finish line I was still not sure it will be enough and even the stone in the last kilometres almost damaged my radiator. It ended up on my windscreen, but luckily it was the right the side so I could still see.

Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Toyota Racing

“I don’t know what to feel because it was a hell of a fight the whole all weekend. I rarely have had to fight like this. Sometimes you have to fight hard against the clock and against your competitors, but this time it was more fighting against all the issues I had to face.

“At the same time, Kalle was having great speed and not far behind and I was thinking when will I be able to drive smoothly without something slowing me down. The last one was probably the biggest one with the overheating issue. There was a lot temperature in the engine and some damage as we finished the powerstage with reduced power.”

Ogier’s victory headed an impressive Toyota 1-2-3-4 completed by Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta. It is the second year in succession that Toyota has achieved this feat in Kenya, which follows an identical triumph recorded in 1993.

Toyota boss Jari-Matti Latvala was surprised to repeat last year’s result, but attributed the success to lessons learned from Toyota’s strong pedigree at the event in the 1980s and 1990s.

“When we won this 1-2-3-4 last year I thought it was something that takes decades to win, but it has happened one year later,” said Latvala.

“So, what I can say, we have an excellent team of people, a reliable and strong car, and then we have the drivers who have the patience in this event to drive a clever way, which is a combination of driving fast, but also slowing down for the rough places and understanding the history of this event, and coming with the right philosophy has achieved this result. I have to say thank you to everybody.

“I would say the learning from the past, the history of what Toyota has from the 80s and 90s of this event is making us stronger in this event.”

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