Joe Kariuki, Carl Tundo And More Kenyan Rally Drivers Thrill Fans At WRC Safari Rally

Joe Kariuki at WRC

Even as foreigners appeared to dominate the 2023 WRC Safari Rally, Kenyan rally drivers also put up a spirited show, managing to edge out stiff competition and emerging tops in a crowded field of legendary rallying wizards.

The rally, which concluded Sunday afternoon, saw Frenchman Sébastien Ogier crowned the winner in a champagne-dripping event graced by President William Ruto, his deputy Rigathi Gachagua and Sports CS Ababu Namwamba.

22-year-old old Finnish driver Kalle Rovanperä came second in a race that was watched and cheered on by thousands of ecstatic spectators.

But in a brutal race through some of Kenya’s most punishing routes, Kenyan driver Joe Kariuki sped on, blowing off his rivals as he tore through bushes riddled with wildlife, clouds of impenetrable dust and cruel bends.

Speaking to Citizen Digital, Kariuki, who emerged Number 6 in the WRC/KNRC category, wished that the Government would offer more support to lesser-known Kenyan drivers.

“It was a tough race. As drivers on the come-up, it wasn’t easy at all. Especially in the sponsorship department where we don’t get to see alot of sponsors coming on board for lesser-known drivers. We wish the support, especially from the government, could be more. That way, we can be able to do even better than we did, ” he said.

Veteran Kenyan rally diver Carl Tundo also made it to the podium after finishing third in the WRC2 category.

On his part, 28-year old McRae Kimathi, who was placed first in the FIA Junior Class and third in the WRC3 Class, said that though the rally was tough, he was happy to finish in Kenya’s biggest motorsport event.

“We had punctures and a few other mechanical problems, though very happy to finish the major rally. It was exciting to be among the finishers,” he told a local sports publication.

While recounting his challenges as well, Joe Kariuki also said that this was the first time he had raced in a left-hand car – he used a Subaru N14 and was navigated by veteran rally fixture John Ngugi.

“I drove it for the first time when we were doing tests at Uhuru Park. This was the first time I ever raced in a left-handed car. You can imagine the challenges especially in the rough terrain. Thankfully, we managed to make it to the finish line through one of the toughest races ever, ” he said.

Speaking at the event’s prize-giving gala, President Ruto congratulated Sebastian Ogier and his navigator Vincent Landais for winning the world’s most spectacular and grueling WRC event, the Safari Rally.

“You (Ogier and Landais) are conquerors of terrain and machine, and King of the 70th Safari Rally 2023. I also commend the 19 Kenyan drivers who took part in the 70th Safari Rally, among them Carl Tundo who was third in WRC category 2,”he said.

“We look forward to more exciting competition next year.”

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