It was a powerful weekend at the WRC 2021 Safari Rally Kenya that was making a comeback after 19 years. The various stages saw a spectacular display of motorsport prowess in the beautiful backdrop of the Kenyan wild. The weekend was spectacular and fans flocked from all over the world to witness the picturesque Safari Rally 2021.
Ogier Takes Rally Lead
Sebastian Ogier emerged the overall Safari Rally winner, followed by his teammate Takamoto Katsuta. Both drivers were driving Toyota Yaris’ which proved to be the best vehicles in the rally. Toyota took the manufacturer’s top spot owing to the win by the two race leaders, followed by Hyundai and M-Sport Ford.
Ott Tanak came in third, followed by Gus Greensmith and Adrien Fourmaux who came in fourth and fifth consecutively. The two are part of the M-Sport Ford team and are twins. Kalle Rovanpera came in sixth driving a Toyota Yaris. Seventh and eighth place went to Kenyan drivers Onkar Rai and Karan Patel.
The FIA World Rally Championship was a dream come true for fans and allowed them to discover the beauty and adventure of Kenya. Kenyan drivers did quite well on their home turf. Onkar Rai won the WRC3 category driving a VW Polo, while Carl Tundo was ninth overall in the Safari Rally standings.
The WRC rally was a tough rally with dusty and rocky courses. As a result, some drivers crashed out, including Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville who crashed out after hitting a rock and wrecking his rear right bumper. Neuville was driving a Hyundai i20 and was having quite a spectacular race, winning all but two rounds. His unfortunate crash out in Sunday’s opening test was very unfortunate and marks a third consecutive rally weekend flop. Out of Neuville’s woes, Sebastian Ogier was able to capitalize and took the overall Safari rally lead, marking his fourth win of the season.
The rough terrain saw a near-crash involving Dan Sordo whose Hyundai nearly flipped and drove on its two left wheels for a moment. He later crashed out on the first day after his car went into a ditch. There was also rain on the second day of the Safari Rally that made the rough terrain even tougher to navigate. The first day also saw injury for Kenyan driver Tejveer Rai, brother to Onkar Rai. Tejveer and his co-driver Tim Jessop were airlifted to Nairobi for treatment. Rai suffered a broken leg.
Takamoto’s Spectacular Race
Takamoto Katsuta, on the other hand, did a fantastic job and had his first podium finish coming in second in the rally. Katsuta was a fan favorite and thrilled the crowds in Naivasha with his speeds and racing fury. He led some of the group stages doing his best to keep Ogier at bay. Sebastian Ogier came first in the Driver’s Championship with 133 points, followed by Elfyn Evans, who was also driving a Toyota Yaris, with 99 points, while Thierry Neuville came third with 77 points.
Ott Tanak had a great rally weekend and was quickly closing in on Katsuta but was derailed by the rain having to stop to clear his windscreen. He lost two minutes leaving Katsuta 47.7 seconds ahead of him. The M-Sport twins on the other hand played it safe and it paid off for them with Fourmaux, also French, celebrating his first top-level stage win. He was however handed a 10-second penalty post-rally leaving him with just a tenth split from his teammate.
Safari Rally a Huge Success
The WRC 2021 Safari Rally was a huge success so much that the Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta announced that the Safari Rally would be extended from a 3-year to a 5-year event for the country. Consequently, the WRC Safari Rally will return to Kenya every year until 2026.