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WRC Rally Kenya

Ogier’s risky tyre decision a “clever call” says Toyota WRC boss

Sebastien Ogier’s risky Safari Rally tyre gamble has been described as a "clever call" by Toyota World Rally Championship boss Jari-Matti Latvala.

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

The 2021 Safari Rally winner made a bold decision to take only one spare wheel, instead of two, for Friday’s six stages at a rally renowned for being rough on tyres.

The call proved to be an inspired move as Ogier used his lighter GR Yaris to good effect, winning four of the six stages to head into Saturday with a 22.8s-advantage over team-mate Kalle Rovanpera.

It was a calculated risk from the eight-time world champion, who elected to only push on the smoother stages of the loop.

“At first people thought it was a risky choice but in the end it was a calculated one after seeing the conditions this morning of the first two stages of the loop were not that rough in terms of tyre risk,” Ogier told Motorsport.com.

“I was basically making a calculation that can allow myself to drive even more clean and don’t be hard on the tyres, and then really try to stay away from punctures by only having one spare and being lighter. It was basically my idea and I’m glad it worked.”

Sébastien Ogier, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

The decision impressed Toyota boss Latvala, who unusually issued a directive to his drivers to be patient ahead of Friday’s stages, given how easy it is to hit trouble on Kenya’s roads.

“It was a clever call from him in one way, because if you do it you have to do things a bit differently because you have to be a bit more cautious when you have only one spare,” said Latvala.

“You can’t attack the same way. But on the other hand the car has less inertia so there is less going sideways, so it gives you more benefit. He was using that benefit of less inertia and then when it was rough he was taking it a bit easier.”

It is highly unlikely Ogier will opt for the same strategy on Saturday which is tipped to provide the toughest conditions of the rally.

“It [Saturday] is the longest and trickiest day of the event and 20 seconds is not that much given what we have to face tomorrow, but of course it is better to be where we are,” Ogier added.

“It will be about driving fast still but also managing some sections that are going to be extremely rough. Tomorrow going for one spare would be more of a gamble.”

Ogier’s nearest rival Rovanpera also declared his Friday a success to end the loop in second having started first on the road.

With championship rival Thierry Neuville out of the rally, the Finn is in prime position to further extend his championship lead.

Although firmly in the victory hunt, Rovanpera believes a controlled approach is his best form of attack for Saturday’s stages.

“Saturday seems the most tough day and if the rain comes it can be really interesting," Rovanpera told Motorsport.com.

“There is a chance where we will go for it, but we need to play the long game on this rally like last year, it is best to try and stay out of trouble."

Toyota ended Friday occupying the top three spots with Elfyn Evans sitting third, 43.5s adrift. The fourth car driven by Takamoto Katsuta will start Saturday in fifth after a hectic Friday.

The Japanese was forced to repair a damaged lower arm on the road in the morning, before a run in with a zebra and a tree damaged his car in the afternoon.

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