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Seven-time world champion Sebastien Ogier of France won the Kenya International Safari Rally title on Sunday after returning to the global calendar after a 19-year absence, against his Japanese teammate Takamoto Katsuoka and Estonian Ott Tanak (Hyundai).
Ogier finished the rally in a time of 3.18.11 hours, 21.8 minutes ahead of Katsuoka, and 1.09.5 minutes ahead of the Estonian.
It is Ogier’s 53rd victory in the WRC, including 4 in 6 rounds this year, to increase his lead in the provisional drivers’ general standings to 133 points, 34 points ahead of his Welsh teammate Elvin Evans (99).
Ogier is heading to win his eighth world title in a year previously announced that it would be his last in the speed stages, while the Japanese manufacturer’s director, former Finnish driver Jari-Matti Latvala, indicated that he could persuade the Frenchman to participate in all rounds next year, despite the difficult task.
“This rally is an unbelievable experience,” said Ogier, as he descended from the podium, after the victory celebrations.
“This rally is shorter than the previous versions, but it remains a great challenge and this makes us happy,” he added with a smile, surrounded by some Kenyans in traditional dress dancing.
Japan’s Katsuta considered the rally a “surprise”, as he succeeded at the age of 28 to climb to the podium for the first time in his career and won the runner-up title despite his lack of experience, similar to what the French Adrian Formo (26 years) achieved by finishing fourth in his Ford Fiesta. In the colors of the M-Sport team.
Both drivers showed high speed without making many mistakes in a ruthless rally.
Rally Kenya remained true to its reputation despite its absence from the world championship, as it fell victim to the tracks in a final chapter of the withdrawals of the former leader since Friday, Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) due to a fracture in the right rear suspension.
Nouvel had an accident in the first stage of the last day of competitions (stage 14), without being able to obtain any technical assistance as stipulated by the laws, and with 4 other special stages remaining on bumpy tracks full of traps.
Coincidentally, Ogier scored the fastest time in stage 14 in front of his compatriot Formo, to join Katsuta in the lead after the end of stage 16, before pounce on first place in the next stage, to return and enter the “Power Stage” stage, which gives the owners of the first five fastest times points, leading With a few seconds behind the Japanese in order to “kill” the excitement of a possible return of the latter.
The seventh stage of the championship will be held in Estonia from 15 to 18 July on the territory of the 2019 world champion Tanak.
The latter came back from Nairobi with 20 points in his pocket thanks to the fastest time he scored in Power Stage and the five points awarded to the owner of this achievement.
The top five standings in the Kenya Rally:
1- Frenchman Sebastien Ogier (Toyota) 3,18,11 hours
2 – Japan’s Takamoto Katsuoka (Toyota), 21.8 seconds behind
3- Estonian Ott Tanak (Hyundai), with a difference of 1,09,5 d.
4- French Adrian Formo (Ford), with a difference of 1,44,7 d.
5- Briton Gus Greensmith (Ford) with a difference of 1.54.6 d.
World Drivers’ Championship standings:
1- Sebastien Ogier (Toyota) 133 points
2- Welshman Elvin Evans (Toyota) 99
3- Belgian Thierry Nouvel (Hyundai) 77
4- Estonian Out Tanak (Hyundai) 69
5- Japan’s Takamoto Katsutsa (Toyota) 66
World Constructors Championship standings:
1- Toyota 273 points
2- Hyundai 214
3- M-Sport Ford 109
© 2021 AFP