The World Rally Championship is back this weekend (June 23-26) for the sixth and most gruelling round of the season, the WRC Safari Rally Kenia 2022. Nestled into the Great Rift Valley, the demanding itinerary is packed with very fast stages and very slow rocky sections.
As if that wasn’t tough enough, rain could make an appearance on any of the four days of competition, and transform the gravel into an impassable mud. This herculean challenge is made up of 19 specials and 363.44 km.
In this edition, there are two names which are set to capture all of the attention, Sébastien Ogier (Toyota) and Sébastien Loeb (M-Sport), both of whom are competing in partial programs this season.
The two most successful rally drivers in history have some unresolved issues to deal with, and they will do so in the very impressive setting of the WRC Safari Rally Kenia 2022. The African savannah, home to the extraordinary lion, giraffe, zebra and rhinoceros, will serve as their particular battlefield. Since its return to the Championship in 2021, the Safari Rally has recovered its status as the jewel in the crown of the speciality, as it was between 1973 and 2002.
Rovanperä hopes to extend his lead of the standings
Current championship leader Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota) arrives in WRC Safari Rally Kenia 2022 with a 55-point advantage over Thierry Neuville (Hyundai). The Finn racer, who has won in Croatia, Sweden & Portugal this season, will want to make up for his disappointing fifth place in Sardinia.
Rovanperä had to open the track at the Mediterranean appointment and the added challenge prevented him from doing any better. This time around in Africa, he will be eager to further increase his distance at the front of the table.
Lining up in the Japanese alongside the young Scandinavian will be Seb Ogier and Elfyn Evans. The eight-time champion will attempt to replicate his Kenyan success of last year. His Welsh teammate, for his part, will have to work on getting his confidence back after his accident in Sardinia, which virtually ended his title bid. The Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta will take the start once again behind the wheel of a fourth GR Yaris Rally 1.
Hyundai: To consolidate its progress
The Japanese team will have to fend off a revitalized Hyundai at the WRC Safari Rally Kenia 2022. Spurred on by their first win of the season in Sardinia, the team from Alzenau will face the Kenyan appointment with renewed confidence. In the island round, Ott Tänak ended a long winning drought that began at the Arctic Rally Finland in 2021, as well as achieving the first victory of the season for the South Koreans.
Thanks to that outstanding performance, the Estonian is now third in the standings with 62 points, only three behind his teammate Neuville. The Belgian driver, by the way, came very to winning the last edition of the African Rally, only a fault in his rear suspension kept him from the glory. Oliver Solberg will be taking over from Spaniard Dani Sordo at the controls of the i20 N to complete Hyundai’s line-up.
M-Sport hopes Loeb will bring back glory to the team
After his second podium of the season by the hand of Craig Breen in Sardinia, M-Sport will also face the African round in a very positive mindset. Sébastien Loeb’s return to the Puma Rally 1 has reinvigorated the team’s chances of success. Winner in Monte-Carlo 2022 after an epic fight with Ogier, the Alsatian driver will come head to head with his greatest rival in the grid for the third time in the current season.
Gus Greensmith and Adrien Fourmaux will complete the four-strong line-up of the Cumbrian team at the WRC Safari Rally Kenya 2022. The Englishman is ecstatic after his best performance yet in Sardinia.
Also, it was here in Africa that he obtained his best ever WRC result with a fourth place in 2021. His French teammate, on the other hand, is going through a complicated situation. Following four abandonments in five races, largely due to his very own mistakes, he must turn things around, pronto!
Images of the WRC Safari Rally Kenia 2022 Preview: Toyota Gazoo Racing.