Safari Rally Kenya: Day 4 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing repeats perfect four-star finish on WRC’s toughest rally
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team has achieved an incredible clean sweep of the top four positions on Safari Rally Kenya for the second year in succession: Sébastien Ogier winning the epic African event ahead of team-mates Kalle Rovanperä, Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta.
TGR-WRT remains unbeaten on the toughest round of the FIA World Rally Championship since it returned to the calendar in 2021, with Toyota’s all-time Safari record now extended to 11 victories – 10 of those achieved as part of the WRC.
The 1-2-3-4 finish comes 30 years to the month since Toyota first recorded such a result in Kenya with the Celica ST185, something it repeated with the GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID in 2022. It’s the first time any manufacturer has managed the feat on the same WRC round on three separate occasions, or to do it in two successive editions of a rally.
Ogier’s second Safari success in three years is also his third victory from five starts so far this season together with co-driver Vincent Landais. They led ever since the first full-length stage of the rally on Friday morning, and came into Sunday with a lead of 16.7 seconds over last year’s Safari winners, Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen.
Six stages and 74.38 competitive kilometres remained on the final day and the top two crews continued to put on an exciting battle for the victory. Rovanperä halved Ogier’s advantage in the morning’s first stage before Ogier recovered that ground in the next test, despite losing the rear wing and tailgate from his car. This was repaired in the final service ahead of the last three stages, which still provided significant challenges with soft sand and deep ruts. Ogier’s final winning margin was just 6.7 seconds: the smallest ever in Safari history, on an event usually decided by whole minutes.
Having set the third-best time in the rally-ending Power Stage to take three bonus points, Rovanperä increases his championship lead from 25 to 37 points following the mid-point event of the 13-round season.
Evans is now up to third in the standings, 41 from the lead, after he and co-driver Scott Martin made the Safari podium for the second year in a row. They also started Sunday with an advantage of 16.7s, this time over Katsuta and Aaron Johnston, and managed to extend that to 25.3s over the course of the day.
Katsuta nonetheless drove another strong Safari with the support of the TGR WRC Challenge Program, putting a roll in Wednesday’s pre-event shakedown behind him to contend for a third successive podium in Kenya and ultimately clinch his best finish of the season so far.
Following its fifth win of the year, TGR-WRT has now increased its manufacturers’ championship lead to 42 points.
Akio Toyoda (TGR-WRT Chairman)
“Since the Safari Rally came back to the WRC calendar, we have completed another year of great results, achieving three consecutive wins and finishing 1-2-3-4 for two years in a row. I would like to thank all drivers and co-drivers, mechanics, engineers, and all the other team members.
Unlike other regions, “bringing the car home in one piece” is strongly required in Africa, which has the harshest environment for cars. It is really great that our four GR YARIS Rally 1 HYBRID cars made it through and showed the reliability of Toyota in such African environments. However, looking at how the rally went, it was not achieved only by the reliability of the cars. It was the result of the combined effort of crews and mechanics/engineers.
Seb, who won the rally, took risks to get to the top and sometimes drove with just one spare tyre. Kalle, Elfyn and Takamoto also pushed as hard as Seb. The crews had good competition with each other and everyone gave it their all. As a result, the cars sometimes came back to the service with significant damage, but mechanics fixed them with their reliable work and put the cars and crews back on the road.
The reliability of the cars that we were able to demonstrate on the Safari this time is the result of this kind of work from the entire team. And we must leverage this reliability not only for winning rallies but also for production cars.
I would like to ask everybody in TGR-WRT to keep working hard for further victories in the second half of the season, as well as to work on ever-better car making for our customers including the GR Yaris, the base of our Rally1 car and the GR Yaris Rally2 currently under development.
We will keep going forward and continue to make ever-better cars for the rest of the season!
P.S. to Juha Kankkunen,
Thank you very much for driving the Hilux MHEV concept. We asked you to drive a GR Yaris with a hydrogen engine last year in Rally Belgium, and this time with the Hilux MHEV in Africa.
To achieve carbon neutrality, I believe it is important to do “what we can do right now, immediately” according to the local environment. We think what we can do in Africa is to increase HEVs, so I asked Juha, one of the legendary drivers that everybody knows, to drive the car to let as many people as possible know about it.
The Safari Rally was the first WRC rally that you won. Compared to the Toyota Celica Twincam Turbo that you were driving then, the Hilux MHEV must have had far less power, but I hope you enjoyed driving it.
P.S too to CFAO team,
Thank you very much this year again for the enthusiastic support to the team. Especially for the demonstration run of the Hilux MHEV concept: we could not have done it without the huge efforts of everybody in CFAO who are familiar with matters in Africa. I hope we can keep cooperating for Toyota to become the “best car shop in town” in Africa.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“I’m really proud of this result, of this team, and of our drivers. Coming to Kenya this year I didn’t think we could achieve a 1-2-3-4 again when the competition has been so tight recently. But I think it is not a coincidence that we have managed to do this result here two years in a row. It means we have done things right in the team to prepare for this event, that our crews have done a great job, and that all comes together to make this result possible. On this rally, you firstly need a car that is reliable and can take the punishment from these roads, and then you start to look for the performance. This philosophy that our team has had is absolutely the right approach and it shows in the results. This year we also had close competition between our drivers and there were maybe some tensions when it got tighter, but this is normal: we want drivers that have the passion to win. They can’t all win all at the same time, but I’m sure they will all see what an achievement this result is.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“The battle with Seb got quite tight at the end, and when you miss out on the win by a small margin like this then it’s not always the best feeling for a driver. But at the end we still scored good points for the championship. I stuck to my plan for the whole weekend, driving with quite good pace but not taking huge risks. So to still finish like this is quite nice. The final day was really tough for the cars: the penultimate stage especially with a lot of deep sand and ruts. It’s good that our cars were so strong and made it through, because to have the 1-2-3-4 finish for the team again here in Kenya is amazing.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“It’s been quite a rally with a lot of challenges, so I think the team can be very proud to again get four cars in the top four. It shows both the speed and the strength of the GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID and I’m proud to be a part of that and of this team. Of course, from a personal perspective I can’t be totally satisfied to be third in the order at the finish, but I’m very pleased for the team and of course to be on the podium in third means we take some reasonable points for the championship as well.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 17)
“This was a hell of a rally and a hell of a fight. I really enjoyed it but I would have liked to have a few less incidents because it could have been a much more comfortable race: the pace was really good, the car was great to drive, I had a good feeling and it seemed that we had everything under control. But we were hit by some little things here and there, including today when we lost the tailgate and we had some overheating in the fesh-fesh sand. But I’m happy that we could bring it home. I think it’s a deserved victory and result for the whole team and we need to enjoy it.”
PROVISIONAL FINAL CLASSIFICATION, SAFARI RALLY KENYA
1 Sébastien Ogier/Vincent Landais (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 3h30m42.5s
2 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +6.7s
3 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +2m58.5s
4 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +3m23.8s
5 Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +5m05.4s
6 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +9m14.4s
7 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Nicolas Gilsoul (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +16m15.7s
8 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +24m47.0s
9 Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +26m33.4s
10 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +27m04.0s
(Results as of 15:30 on Sunday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
Rally Estonia (July 20-23) is the first part of a double-header on fast gravel roads in the north of Europe. The stages around Tartu combine wide and narrow sections and a soft and sandy surface that can become rutted for the second pass.
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