Unbwogable Sebastien Ogier wins 2023 WRC Safari Rally

The top three crews in the 2023 WRC Safari Rally, Kenya from left: second-placed Kalle Rovanpera and Jonne Halttunen, winners Sebastien Ogier and Vincent Landais and third-placed Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin celebrate on June 25, 2023 in Naivasha. 

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The rally started on Thursday with the Super Special Stage at Kasarani.
  • The Frenchman won the 2021 title when the Safari Rally had been reinstated into the WRC calendar after a 19-year hiatus.

“Unbelievable. I even have a stone on the windscreen,” the new Safari Rally Kenya 2023 champion Sebastien Ogier of France heaved at the end of the Hell's Gate Wolf Power Stage in front of thousands of spectators led by President William Ruto and his Deputy Rigathi Gachagua who gave each finisher a rousing shout on Sunday.

The driver on a limited World Rally Championship (WRC) programme since announcing his gradual exit from the demanding circuit after winning the 2021 world title to concentrate on his family, said he didn't know of his future at the end.

Frenchman Sebastien Ogier, navigated by Vincent Landais of Britain, compete in their Toyota Yaris GR at the Malewa Stage during the WRC Safari Rally on June 25, 2023. Ogier won the title.

Photo credit: Red Bull Team |

Frenchman Ogier, driving a Toyota Yaris GR won the Safari with a 6.7-second advantage over teammate Kalle Rovanpera of Finland, the closest Safari Rally victory since the 1973 dead heat finish between Kenyan Shekhar Mehta and Harry Kallstrom of Sweden.

Mehta won the rally in the "furthest, cleanest rule'' which favours the driver who took the lead last.

Ogier, navigated by compatriot Vincent Landias, sighed with relief at the end, only happy he had finished before Masai dancers ahead of his challenger for the last four days, world champion Rovanpera navigated by Jonne Haulttunen, in a similar car had not managed to cancel the 9.2 seconds that separated them at the start of the Power Stage.

Masai warriors welcome 2023 WRC Safari Rally winner Sebastien Ogier at the end of the Wolf Power Stage in Hell's Gate, Naivasha on June 25, 2023.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Ogier won seven stages, Rovanpera five with Katsuta Takamoto, Ott Tanak and Neuville sharing the rest.

Ogier collected 25 maximum points plus three bonus ones for finishing third in the  Power stage which was won by Belgium Thierry Neuville in a Hyundai  in 5 minutes 34.0 seconds.

He was followed by Ott Tanak in a Ford Puma (1.0sec) behind and Ogier (4.3) sec Rovanpera (1.8sec) as a consolation after losing his Safari challenge on Friday at the Geothermal stage after clipping a roadside pipeline.

Ogier was lucky in a race which affected virtually all the top 10 Priority One drivers but winning a second time proved his skills and experience especially against young Rovanpera who exerted such pressure since Friday when Ogier built a 28 seconds lead.

President William Ruto (right) his deputy Rigathi Gachagua (second right), Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi (centre), Sports CS Ababu Namwamba (second left) and Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika at the finish point of the Hell's Gate Wolf Power Stage of the 2023 WRC Safari Rally on June 25, 2023.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Nonetheless, it was Toyota's crowning moment for the third year running.

This was Ogier's third victory this season from five starts.

Elfyn Evans finished third followed by crowd pleaser Takamoto Katsuta to once again complete a Toyota clean sweep of the first four positions.

Kenyans Carl Tundo and Tim Jesspo finished 12th overall in a Skoda Fabia, followed by Shaman Vohra in 17th.

Tundo has surprised everybody by starting his rally career at the top and giving a good account of himself.

He finished third overall in the Rally2 class.

Mcrae Kimathi finished 19th to get the third podium place in the Rally3 class while Nikil Sachania 20th overall and Minesh Rathod 21st.

Zebras graze as Frenchman Sebastien Ogier, navigated by Vincent Landais of Britain, compete in their Toyota Yaris GR at the Hell's Gate Power Stage during the WRC Safari Rally on June 25, 2023. Ogier won the title.

Diego Dominguez won the Rally 3 title after running away with victory after all other drivers suffered a myriad of problems, the sole driver to safely navigate all six of Saturday's gruelling tests.

Hamza Anwar, who had staged a brilliant run, suffered three punctures on Saturday while Jeremiah Wahome had mechanical issues.

Both retired on Saturday.

The fans turned up in large numbers to cheer the drivers since last Wednesday in the Super Special Stage at Ndulele Conservancy followed by the Kasarani Super Special Stage.

Rally proper was held on Friday in the Kedong aerea in Naivasha and Lake Elementaita, Soysambu Conservancy and Sleeping Warrior.

Leading results from the 2023 WRC Safari Rally Kenya:

Outright winners:

1.    Sebastien Ogier (France) / Vincent Landais (France) – Toyota GR Yaris;

2.    Kalle Rovanperä (Finland) / Jonne Halttunen (Finland) – Toyota GR Yaris;

3.    Elfyn Evans (Great Britain) / Scott Martin (Great Britain) – Toyota GR Yaris;

4.    Katsuta Takamoto (Japan) / Aaron Johnson (Ireland) – Toyota GR Yaris.


1.    Kajetan Kajetanowicz (Poland) / Maciej Szczepaniak (Poland) – Skoda Fabia Evo;

2.    Martin Prokop (Czech Republic) / Zdenek Jurka (Czech Republic) – Ford Fiesta MKII;

3.    Carl Tundo (Kenya) / Tim Jessop (Kenya) – Skoda Fabia.


1.    Diego Dominguez (Paraguay) / Rogelio Penate (Spain) – Ford Fiesta Rally3;

2.    Jason Bailey (Canada) / James Willets (Canada) – Ford Fiesta Rally3;

3.    McRae Kimathi (Kenya) / Mwangi Kioni (Kenya) – Ford Fiesta Rally3.

Winning WRC2 Challenger:

1.    Kajetan Kajetanowicz (Poland) / Maciej Szczepaniak (Poland) – Skoda Fabia;

Winning Master:

1.    Armin Kremer (Germany) / Timo Gottschalk (Germany) Skoda Fabia.

Leading timings:

1. (#17) Sébastien Ogier - Landais V. FRA-FRA (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1) 3:30:42.5;

2. (#69) Kalle Rovanperä - Halttunen J. FIN-FIN (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1) 3:30:49.2/+6.7;

3. (#33) Evans Elfyn - Martin Scott GBR-GBR (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1) 3:33:41.0/+2:58.5;

4. (#18) Takamoto Katsuta - Aaron Johnston JAP-IRL (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1) 3:34:06.3/+3:23.8;

5. (#6) Sordo Dani - Carrera Cándido ESP-ESP (Hyundai i20 N Rally1) 3:35:47.9/+5:05.4;

6. (#8) Tänak Ott - Järveoja Martin EST-EST (Ford Puma Rally1) 3:39:56.9/+9:14.4

7. (#7)    Pierre-Louis Loubet - Gilsoul N. FRA-BEL (Ford Puma Rally1) 3:46:58.2/+16:15.7

8. (#11) Thierry Neuville - Wydaeghe M. BEL-BEL (Hyundai i20 N Rally1) 3:55:29.5/+24:47.0

9. (#21) Kajetanowicz K. - Szczepaniak POL-POL (M.Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo ) 3:57:15.9/+26:33.4

10. (#20) Oliver Solberg - Edmondson E. SWE-GBR (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) 3:57:46.5/+27:04.0

11. (#23) Martin Prokop - Jůrka Zdeněk CZE-CZE (Ford Fiesta Rally2) 4:08:43.6/+38:01.1

12. (#26) Carl Tundo - Jessop Tim KEN-KEN (Škoda Fabia R5) 4:11:38.6/+40:56.1

13. (#4) Lappi Esapekka - Ferm Janne  (Hyundai i20 N Rally1) 4:12:57.4/+42:14.9

14. (#24) Kremer Armin - Gottschalk Timo DEU-DEU (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) 4:14:40.8/+43:58.3.