Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Championship Team’s Sebastien Ogier took victory as the FIA World Rally Championship returned to Africa this weekend for the first time in 19 years coming home just ahead of Takamoto Katsuta and Ott Tanak. It was Ogier’s fourth win in six rallies during the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship season and as a result, he is 34 points ahead of teammate Elfyn Evans and speaking following the action he said:
“It feels amazing to win the Safari Rally. I didn’t think it was still possible after our trouble on Friday, but I always give my best up to the end to take the maximum points possible, and in Safari we knew many things can happen – and they did happen. I think that since our issue on Friday we’ve been very strong for the rest of the weekend. We had really good pace and the car has been amazing. It’s a huge step for both championships, so a very good day for the team. I also want to congratulate Taka who took an amazing result: It was not that easy to catch him at the end.”
Kalle Rovanpera ended the event in sixth place and speaking following the event the Finn commented saying:
“I had been waiting for the chance to go for some extra points in the Power Stage, and we had quite a good run. It was a big push, and with two hard tyres on the car it was not the best option. We were quite close to taking the maximum points, but four points was still really good. Overall it was a difficult weekend and not what I was hoping for, but the team did a great job to keep the car going, so thank you to them.”
Elfyn Evans who ended the rally in tenth place commented saying:
“Today we were looking for points and we gave it a good go in the Power Stage, although it was very difficult to judge where the grip was. It’s disappointing to only come away from here with a few points after the error on Friday. But it was good to drive most of the stages and gain experience of this event for the future, and now we have to look forward and focus on Estonia. Credit to the team and to Seb for the victory, and I’m really happy to see Taka and Dan on the podium as well.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing Team Principal Jari-Matti Latvala commented saying:
“This is a really special day at the end of an amazing weekend. After Friday it was looking tough for us, and now we have a one-two finish on this classic rally, the first for almost 20 years in the WRC. The victory was based on the endurance and the consistency that we showed, as well as the never give-up attitude and the commitment of the team. When Seb had his problem he stayed calm and when he saw the chance he attacked and took the victory. I am also very happy to see Takamoto on the podium for the first time. The steps he has been taking have been amazing and he really deserves this result.”
Akio Toyoda, founder of Toyota Gazoo Racing commented on the weekend’s action saying:
“Seb and Julien, congratulations! To our fans, thank you very much for your strong support!
However, please allow me to let out this feeling first today:
Takamoto, it was fantastic! I’m very happy with what he has achieved. He started the final day ahead of Seb, kept running for the victory and finally stood on the podium. It was so impressive that I was shaking. Since this afternoon, I have been communicating with his father a lot. Both of us were so anxious and not able to do anything else. I am lucky that I was off today. He has completed the rally on those very harsh roads which he has never experienced before, fighting for victory with the world’s top drivers. I think, in this rally alone, he has grown up a lot more than he did before. There are six rallies left in this season, and the last one is Rally Japan. It is going to be very exciting.
In this rally, I also recognised again how strong a driver Seb is. It was easy to imagine the roughness of the roads in Kenya. Due to his excellent tyre management skills, he caught Takamoto and overtook him in the last three stages. I am very thankful that we have this respected driver in our team and his presence leads to the progress of other team members as well.
I would also like to express my appreciation to all of the team. A WRC round was held in Kenya for the first time after 19 years. It was the first experience for everybody. Thanks to engineers who kept analysing the information from recce, the crews could drive with confidence. Our success in Kenya was because of every single member both on-site and in Finland.
And of course, my appreciation also goes to Elfyn, Scott, Kalle and Jonne too. Even after they unfortunately had to retire during Friday, they kept on sharing information to the team, which made Seb and Takamoto successful. I promise we improve our rally cars for the second half of the season so that they feel more confident in return for their teamwork.
President Kenyatta made a heartwarming welcome and a strong support for the rally. I also felt a welcoming atmosphere as a country, watching children waving and animals running. I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere gratitude to everyone in Kenya. I hope we will also welcome many rally drivers at Rally Japan with this kind of warm atmosphere.
Finally, I offer my appreciation to our family members in Africa, Toyota Tsusho who supported and cheered the team. They also shared what’s happening in the rally with us every time. Thanks to them, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing enjoyed the road in Kenya with confidence like another home country.
Thank you very much! HATU JAMBO! ASANTE SANA!”