Frenchman Sébastien Ogier has described his nerve-racking WRC Safari Rally win as one of his career finest.
The seven times reigning champion had his campaign effectively sewn up after longtime leader and compatriot Thierry Neuville suffered suspension gremlins in Sunday morning's Loldia speed test.
Neuville’s Hyundai i20 clouted a rock smashing the right rear damper.
On his way up, Ogier demoted Toyota Yaris team-mate Takamoto Katsuta from the summit in the penultimate Loldia2 stage to clinch the iconic Safari title by 21.8seconds, incidentally on its return to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) after a 19-year hiatus.
Ogier clawed his way up the order from seventh after suffering suspension troubles of his own on Friday. His ffourth win in six rounds extended his lead to 34 points at the midpoint of the season.
“After our troubles on Friday, we had a really good weekend, really good pace,” said Ogier. “It’s been an amazing experience to be here. The support we got from the local people was incredible. It might be a bit shorter than the old days, but the challenge is still very tough.”
The Safari lived up to its reputation as one of the world’s iconic motorsport events.
Rocky and sandy gravel tracks around Lakes Naivasha and Elmenteita in the Great Rift Valley provided a brutal test, while stunning scenery, exotic wildlife and enthusiastic locals portrayed Africa at its best.
Neuville had led for all but two stages until his premature demise, the third rally in succession that Hyundai had retired from the lead with suspension troubles.
“Very hard luck for us, but also for all the team,” said the Belgian. “Three tough rally weekends in a row, and nobody deserved that. We would have deserved three victories in the last three events, but unfortunately we didn’t.”