Toyota City, Japan, Jun 26, 2023 - (JCN Newswire) - 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: Sebastien Ogier winning the epic African event ahead of team-mates Kalle Rovanpera, 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, Rovanpera 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. Rovanpera 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, Rovanpera 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.
For more information, visit https://toyotagazooracing.com/wrc/release/2023/rd07-day4/.
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