Intense competition narrows Ogier's lead as Safari Rally reaches thrilling final loop

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MOTORSPORTS Intense competition narrows Ogier's lead as Safari Rally reaches thrilling final loop

Festus Chuma 11:00 - 25.06.2023

Intense battle ensues as Rovanpera narrows gap to 13.6 seconds in Sunday morning Loop

The 2023 WRC Safari Rally witnessed a thrilling Sunday morning loop as Sébastien Ogier maintained his lead but faced relentless pressure from his Toyota teammate, Kalle Rovanperä. 

In a captivating demonstration of his tenacity and competitive spirit, Rovanperä exhibited remarkable skill, closing the margin to a mere 13.6 seconds, igniting the atmosphere with an exhilarating showcase of talent and fierce rivalry.

The final day began with Rovanperä trailing by 16.7 seconds, but he wasted no time in launching a fierce attack. 

On the opening stage, he seized 8.1 seconds from Ogier, astonishingly reducing the deficit to just 8.6 seconds. 

Forced to respond, the eight-time champion delivered a masterful performance, snatching back the same 8.6 seconds on the subsequent test, despite losing his tailgate due to a minor collision in a fesh-fesh section.

However, Rovanperä wasn't ready to concede defeat as at the challenging Hells' Gate stage, he countered Ogier's move and recovered from a heart-stopping moment where he brushed against a bank.

"I was caught out a bit in the ruts, but I'm not feeling too good with the car, to be honest. I'm fighting way too much with the car," said Rovanperra.

Ogier, affected by the absence of a rear wing due to the missing tailgate, faced further setbacks and secured only the fifth-fastest time on SS16, conceding an additional 3.3 seconds to Rovanperä. 

 "A good stage for sure. Without the wings in the high speed, it was not easy," Ogier commented, displaying resilience in the face of adversity.

Meanwhile, Elfyn Evans maintained a secure hold on third place, while Takamoto Katsuta faced challenges without a hybrid for two of the morning stages, trailing 35.7 seconds behind.

M-Sport duo Ott Tänak and Pierre-Louis Loubet had a relatively quiet morning but held onto sixth and seventh places overall.

Loubet found himself over six minutes adrift from his teammate, while Tänak, who went on to win the stage doubling as the power stage, remained four minutes behind fifth-placed Dani Sordo, who experienced power-steering issues on the treacherous Hell's Gate.

In ninth place, Thierry Neuville trailed 46.4 seconds behind WRC2 leader Kajetan Kajetanowicz, who impressively held an eighth place in the overall standings.