Safari Rally day one report- photos and video from the ceremonial start
Words by Elias Makori Photos and video by Sean Moriarty
“I came back for the people.” Those were the emotional words of eight-times world rally champion Sebastien Ogier shortly after grabbing the overnight lead on Day One of WRC Safari Rally Kenya.
Listen for the Banshee in the video !
The GR Yaris driver edged Hyundai Motorsport’s Thierry Neuville to claim the opening Kasarani Super Special Stage (SSS) speed test before an enthusiastic crowd of petrol heads.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing speedster beat Neuville by 0.6 seconds as Ott Tanak of Hyundai came in third, 1.1 behind the leader. It was a bad day in the office for series leader and shakedown winner Kalle Rovanperä who could only manage a disappointing 11th fastest time.
The 21-year-old ran wide on the first left-hand bend and almost rolled his GR Yaris. He was lucky to continue, but the excursion caused a right rear puncture which cost 11.6 seconds.
Ogier’s result was a repeat of last year’s event where the Frenchman beat Kalle on the opening test at the same venue. His sublime drive through the 4. 84-kilometre head-to-head gravel stage treated spectators to some exhilarating displays of hybrid-powered contraptions first used during the season-opening Rallye Monte Carlo.
“It’s very colourful here and the people in this country give us amazing support. The opener followed a colourful start ceremony in Nairobi which was quite exciting for a start,” said Ogier. “But the challenge is going to be big. it’s going to be really rough in Naivasha, but we will try to survive it,” he added.
Craig Breen and Paul Nagle finished the day in seventh place – the real rally starts tomorrow – when the Waterford pairing hope to build on their podium in Sardina earlier this month
”It is all about managing the car and protecting the car,” said Breen and the ceremonial start in Nairobi on Sunday.
“We finished on the podium in Sardinia and we will try and keep that rhythm up going forward
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta flagged off the first cars from the capital, Nairobi. Kasarani SSS marked the start of the event that will revolve around the lakeside town of Naivasha over the next three days.
The top Kenyan driver after the first stage of the event is Karan Patel who returned his Ford Fiesta Rally2 to 16th overall.
Five times ARC Safari Rally winner Carl “Flash” Tundo is the second placed Kenyan driver in 20th position.
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