Battle Of Sebs Set To Spice Up WRC Safari Rally Kenya

Sebastian Ogier and his namesake Sebastien Loeb will for the first time in history go for each other's jugular on Kenyan soil at next month's WRC Safari Rally Kenya in Naivasha.

Both megastar Frenchmen will be gracing the iconic Kenyan fixture for the second time in their colorful racing careers which have culminated into a combined 17 World Rally Championship (WRC) titles.

Loeb is indeed the most successful of the two speedsters with nine titles to his name while Ogier is an eight-time world champion.

There is already some good humoured banter locally as purists predict a scintillating battle of titans.

Kenyan navigator Victor Oundi is convinced that the Safari is most likely to go to either of the Sebs. 

"My money is on Loeb for the simple reason that the current generation Ford is really awesome. Hyundai still hasn't found the mojo. Lately Neuville looks like he’s really over driving it to get results so Hyundai is not likely to be impressive. Ogier, being the defending champion is no pushover, so thrills and spills are guaranteed."

The French speed merchants share many things in common being namesakes and compatriots. They're both on partial WRC campaigns this season, which means that they're only partaking in selected events.

So, their  Safari rivalry couldn't have come at a better time when the WRC has transitioned into the hybrid Rally 1 era.

Loeb, 48, is returning to Kenya after two decades. He finished fifth on his debut Safari in 2002 behind the wheel of a Citroen Xsara WRC.

Ogier, on the other hand, won last year’s world championship return to Africa in a dramatic last leg comeback.

On his very first outing in Kenya, Ogier told journalists that he is no longer interested in chasing Loeb's record of 9 titles. 

Here's what he told the DirtFish Website: “Safari is a rally I have considered in my partial championship campaign of four or five rallies this year."

“I really enjoyed.the rally last year with the nature and the people and the welcome we got. There’s such enthusiasm for the rally. I have nothing more to say, but this is the event I'm looking forward to.”

Loeb missed last year’s African adventure, but he was there the time before – in his late 20s.

“I have incredible memories from 2002,” Loeb told the DirtFish of his magnificent Kenyan experience, adding:. “It was incredible. The design was completely different from the other rallies. The animals and everything – the place is amazing. You see things you never see anywhere else. It was good to be there and I think it’s good for the championship [to have Safari Rally Kenya].”

After winning the season opening home event in Monte Carlo, Loeb gave Croatia and Sweden a wide berth before crashing out of the Portugal round.

WRC Safari Rally Kenya 2022 is being sponsored by KCB Bank Kenya and Toyota Kenya among others. 

The event will revolve around Nairobi and Naivasha covering a total distance of 1226.23km. 

Shakedown returns to Ndulele Conservancy for the second year running on June 22, whereas Kasarani Super Special Stage on June 23 will see WRC crews recce in their Rally 1 hybrids.

Sports May 27, 2022