As has become normal service in Africa, Safari Rally Kenya provided plenty of drama for the entire World Rally Championship field this year.
There were highs, there were lows, there was wildlife and plenty of car damage.
And naturally, some drivers came off worse than others.
Here’s our winners and losers from Safari Rally Kenya 2023:
This was a mega rally from Sébastien Ogier. He led right from the off, blowing his rivals away on Friday, and even when Kalle Rovanperä began to reign him back in on Sunday, the eight-time WRC champion just about had an answer.
With Rovanperä laying down a challenge on Sunday morning, Ogier killed it off instantly with an emphatic reply. Despite losing his tailgate, he just went faster and faster to contain his lead over his Toyota team-mate, proving that he still has the measure of the young champion.
After a difficult event in Sardinia, this is what Ogier needed. A strong victory proving he is still very much at the top of his game, no matter the level of competition.
This was a great round for Toyota, securing a 1-2-3-4 in Kenya for the second year running.
It didn’t make it through Safari unscathed, but its issues were less damaging than that of Hyundai or M-Sport, and it ended up dominating the event.
And this will worry its rivals. On one of the toughest events of the year, the Yaris proved it was capable of tackling any terrain and was able to fly through the stages in the process.
Even when it ran into issues in the dust on Sunday afternoon, it wasn’t enough to seriously hamper the team.
If Jari-Matti Latvala was smiling at the prospect of another top four lockout on Saturday night, it will be a huge grin now.
Hyundai will be walking away from Kenya with its tail very much between its legs.
A suspension failure for Thierry Neuville on Friday was bad enough, but Esapekka Lappi had not one, but four propshaft failures over the course of the weekend.
That’s nothing short of embarrassing for the Alzenau-based outfit, and it knows it cannot have a repeat performance again.
And what will hurt it most was the fact Esapekka Lappi was on top-three pace when the car was working.
There was potential for a strong result, but it threw it all away through issues of its own making.
Thierry Neuville can’t exactly be held culpable for his suspension failure on Friday, but he absolutely can for his recce breach that saw him disqualified from eighth place.
Even without that DSQ, it had been a bad rally for Neuville’s championship challenge. With Rovanperä finishing second, Neuville had dropped yet more ground to the series leader.
And with a series of fast gravel events up now, one of which on Rovanperä’s home turf, Neuville knows the task of taking title glory is getting tougher and tougher.
The pressure really is on now.
It’s crazy isn’t it? A few events ago everyone was questioning Rovanperä’s motivation, with the Toyota driver having been anonymous by his lofty standards over the opening rounds of the season. And yet now he’s put himself firmly in control of the championship battle.
His performance in Kenya was measured, but he also wasn’t afraid to push. And when he did, he scared everyone.
He was able to go so much faster on several stages, and although he had a helping hand with the weather on Saturday’s Sleeping Warrior stage, he still had a pace that nobody other than Ogier had an answer for.
With some fast gravel rallies up next, you’d be hard pushed to bet against Rovanperä clinching a second title now.