Sébastien Ogier has reiterated his love for Africa- and most importantly- Kenya’s iconic World Rally Championship round.
Relaying his experiences on his RedBull.com column after WRC Rally Italia Sardegna, the eight-time WRC Champion shared his love of the fabled Safari Rally slated for Naivasha from June 22-25.
The Frenchman crashed out of Rally Sardinia as a result of a muddy boot slipping off the brake pedal, caused by a last-minute wheel change. He veered off the road in stage 14 in desperately wet conditions, while holding a 4.3s lead over Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi.
Ogier and Kalle Rovanperä- winners of the last two editions in 2021 and 2022 respectively – will both field GR Yaris Rally1 cars for Toyota GazooRacing along with Welshman Elfyn Evans and Japanese Takamoto Katsuta.
The Toyota speedster stopped competing full-time after his eighth WRC title in the 2021 season. but has savoured the opportunity to do the events that he really enjoys. He wrote in his column: “I love the Safari Rally. Winning this event is one of the highlights of my career. Really, it’s one of the special ones.”
Ogier is the second most successful driver in the history of the WRC after namesake and compatriot Sebastian Loeb who won it a record nine times in a row. He won the Safari on its return to the WRC calendar in 2021 and was leading last year’s event until he stopped to change a puncture on the repeat run of the Kedong speed test.
“Now, we look forward to Africa and I think we’re out of the rainy season in Kenya. The place is quite magical. When I hear about some of the places the WRC is thinking to go to, it really makes me happy to think about being back in Naivasha again.”
“The place,” he wrote, “is quite magical. The people, the country, wildlife and the roads – everything is just amazing. When you look at the people, it’s humbling to see how warm they are and for the welcome they are giving to us. They never stop smiling.”
Safari will count towards the seventh round of the WRC representing one of the season’s most challenging events for the crew and the car. In 2021, Ogier donated Sh2.5 million (€20,000) to two Kenyan charities (Nakuru Children’s Project and Ol Pejeta Conservancy) which both received half of the amount.
Ogier concluded: “The challenge of Safari, it’s unique. It’s not like anywhere else on earth. But we don’t forget: the roads also can be super-tough. You can go from the big, big rocks where you take only first gear into places where you struggle like hell to come through the fesh-fesh, with your face full of the dust.”