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Safari Rally driver gives Ruto speed scare after ‘defying’ president’s security

M-Sport Ford driver Pierre-Louis Loubet may be making his first WRC Safari Rally appearance, but the Frenchman has already chalked up more than he could have bargained for on his Kenyan debut!

On Sunday, he joined Estonia’s 2019 world champion Ott Tanak and co-driver Martin Jarveola for a visit of marathon legend Eliud Kipchoge’s Kaptagat training camp where he also met with double track world record holder Faith Kipyegon.

And Wednesday, Loubet was the designated driver who took President William Ruto on a flying cruise in his Ford Puma at the Loldia Shakedown section.

At the subsequent official pre-rally press conference, Loubet was beside himself with excitement, first saying his cousin was green with envy after his encounter with Kipchoge on Sunday, then disclosing that President Ruto “was not too comfortable” with his fast drive.

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“My cousin is more than big fan of Eliud… in fact, he is her idol. So, she was bit upset not to be here and jealous. I will bring her the shoes when I get back,” he said, referring to the Nike running shoes that Kipchoge gifted the visiting M-Sport Ford team on Sunday.

And even before that sunk, Loubet was in the limelight again, this time having been selected to take Kenya’s Head of State for a cruise in the Loldia section.

President William Ruto co-driving with Pierre-Louis Loubet (FRA) of M-Sport Ford WRT during the Shakedown of the 2023 WRC Safari Rally in Naivasha on June 21, 2023. PHOTO | PCS

“My week here is going well. It was a very nice moment (driving President Ruto) and it was not stressful at the beginning, but when the security guard came to see me, he told me I had to drive at 50kph, I said maybe he would not want to do that so I drove fast out so I felt a bit of responsibility.”

How did the President cope?

“Not so comfortable I would say,” the 26-year-old Loubet quipped.

A speedster with 54 rallies tucked under his belt, Loubet confessed to having gone fast, against the wishes of the president’s security chiefs.

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Did the Frenchman know that he had the whole Kenyan nation in his hands during the 5.4-kilometre, high-speed cameo drive?

“When the security told me to not go fast and I went fast… I knew I had the biggest responsibility. It was a bit stressful but it was fine,” he responded, grateful that there were no punitive measures taken against him.

Probably because the crack Presidential Escort Unit is headed by one William Oloonkishu Yiampoi, a former elite athlete who won bronze in the 800 metres at the 2005 World Athletics Championships in Helsinki, and who knows a thing or two about high-adrenaline action.

But young Kenyan driver Jeremiah Wahome wasn’t too pleased that a Frenchman was given the presidential drive.

“I wish it was a Kenyan driver driving the president… it would have been great to see the president with a car that has a Kenyan flag,” argued Wahome, one of three Kenyan drivers competing under the International Automobile Federation’s Rally Star Programme, the other two being Hamza Anwar and McRae Kimathi.

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