Kenyan Rally drivers shine at 2023 WRC Safari Rally
The 2023 WRC Safari Rally showcased the prowess of Kenyan rally drivers as they put on a remarkable display, managing to outperform their formidable international competitors and emerge as frontrunners in a fiercely contested race featuring legendary rallying experts.
The thrilling rally, which concluded on Sunday afternoon, witnessed Frenchman Sébastien Ogier being crowned the champion in a jubilant event graced by the presence of President William Ruto, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, and Sports CS Ababu Namwamba.
Finland’s 22-year-old prodigy, Kalle Rovanperä, secured second place in a race that captivated thousands of enthusiastic spectators with its adrenaline-fueled action.
Amidst a grueling competition on Kenya’s challenging terrains, Kenyan driver Joe Kariuki showcased remarkable skill as he swiftly overtook his rivals, maneuvering through wildlife-infested bushes, dense clouds of dust, and treacherous bends.
In an interview with an online media, Kariuki, who secured an impressive sixth position in the WRC/KNRC category, expressed his wish for greater support from the government for lesser-known Kenyan drivers.
“The race was incredibly tough, particularly for up-and-coming drivers like us. It is challenging to secure sponsorships, especially for lesser-known drivers. We hope that the government, in particular, can provide more support. With increased backing, we can achieve even greater success,” Kariuki stated.
Renowned Kenyan rally driver Carl Tundo also claimed a spot on the podium, finishing third in the WRC2 category.
Meanwhile, 28-year-old McRae Kimathi celebrated his triumph as the winner in the FIA Junior Class and third in the WRC3 Class. Reflecting on the challenging rally, Kimathi expressed his satisfaction with finishing the highly anticipated motorsport event in Kenya.
“Despite experiencing punctures and other mechanical issues, I am thrilled to have completed this major rally. It was an exhilarating experience to be among the finishers,” Kimathi shared in an interview with a local sports publication.
Joe Kariuki, while recounting his own hurdles, revealed that this was his first time racing in a left-hand drive car. He used a Subaru N14 and was navigated by veteran rally fixture John Ngugi.
“I drove a left-hand drive car for the first time during our tests at Uhuru Park. Racing with this unfamiliar setup presented numerous challenges, especially on rough terrains. Thankfully, we persevered and successfully crossed the finish line in one of the toughest races ever,” Kariuki explained.
During the prize-giving gala, President Ruto congratulated Sebastian Ogier and his navigator Vincent Landais for their victory in the world’s most spectacular and demanding WRC event, the Safari Rally.
“Sebastian Ogier and Vincent Landais, you have conquered the terrain and machines, becoming the Kings of the 70th Safari Rally in 2023. I also commend the 19 Kenyan drivers who participated in this historic event, including Carl Tundo, who secured an impressive third position in the WRC2 category,” President Ruto praised.
“We eagerly anticipate even more thrilling competition in the coming year.”