Toyota braced to use Hyundai’s Safari trick against it

With Sunday points more important than ever, Sébastien Ogier is ready to help his team outscore Hyundai


On the Saturday evening of this year’s Safari Rally Kenya, all looked lost for Hyundai.

World Rally Championship points leader Thierry Neuville had shipped 10 minutes with a fuel system fault, Ott Tänak had already retired on Friday after striking a rock, and Esapekka Lappi’s transmission had lunched itself. Its cars were fifth, 10th and 15th while Toyota led the way with a 1-2.

But on Sunday the tables turned rapidly: while Kalle Rovanperä and Takamoto Katsuta took it easy to preserve their 1-2 finish, Neuville and Tänak racked up a perfect score of 22 points by blitzing the Toyota trio on the final day, ensuring Hyundai lost only four points in the manufacturers’ title race.

A weekend that looked like a cataclysmic disaster had suddenly been transformed into a minor blip, at least in the teams’ championship. And Neuville even outscored his primary title rival Elfyn Evans in the process.


On his return to action, Ogier's Sunday pace could prove crucial

Now Toyota is prepared to pull the same trick in Croatia. Sébastien Ogier arrives in Zagreb wanting to win, naturally; it’s why he’s signed up to a part-time program. But starting sixth on the road at an event known for changeable weather and dirt being pulled onto the asphalt road surface for later cars means he’s not in an ideal position.

That led to an interesting comment from Ogier in the lead-up to the event: “My main motivation is always to reach the podium and fight for victory, but I’m also here to help the team, and with the new points system we can see that Sundays are also now more important than ever,” he said.

It would appear from that remark that his strategy is already planned: if a win is out of the question, the eight-time world champion is gearing up to go full send on Sunday and claw back some of the points Hyundai unexpectedly recouped on the Safari.