Sébastien Ogier, during the Kenya rally, Friday June 23, 2023 YASUYOSHI CHIBA / AFP
Sébastien Ogier finally withstood the onslaught of Kalle Rovanperä. The veteran Frenchman won the Kenya rally on Sunday June 25, containing the comeback of the young Finn, reigning world champion. The two men engaged in a real duel of generations. Which turned to the advantage of the oldest. The 39-year-old Frenchman, eight-time champion between 2013 and 2021, finished these grueling 355 km just 6.7 seconds ahead of the 22-year-old Finn, who in 2022 became the youngest WRC champion in history.
Ogier wins for the second time in Kenya after 2021, the year of the return to the calendar of this historic event. Even intermittent showman in the WRC (he missed Sweden and Portugal), Ogier is already on his third victory in 2023 after Monte-Carlo and Mexico. The 58th of a monumental career.
The two Toyotas went blow for blow. Between Thursday and Sunday, Ogier won seven specials, Rovanperä six (out of a total of 19). Britain’s Elfyn Evans and Japan’s Takamoto Katsuta finished about three minutes behind.
The toughest round of the season
Already leader of the championship before arriving in the savannah, Rovanperä takes off in front of the sandy pursuers: the Nordic (139 pts) is now 37 points ahead of the Belgian Thierry Neuville (Hyundai), 8th in Kenya at 24 minutes, and 41 on Evans.
Even if the general classification is not his primary objective, Ogier is tied for fourth with Tänak (97 pts) and five points behind Neuville (102). Yet another snub for these full-time pilots against the intermittent veteran.
If Rovanperä repeated at will on Saturday that he was above all aiming for the general classification and not at all costs for the stage victory, the Finn did everything to win. He pushed hard on Sunday morning and kept the suspense going until he was 9.2 seconds before the final stage. During this one, he still took time.
But not enough to impose itself, as in 2022, on Maasai land. A round reputed to be the most difficult of the season, both for its very sharp rockery and for the very changeable weather, which offered its dose of rain on Saturday to the competitors.