Safari Rally Kenia Preview: The most famous rally of the WRC is back

The returned Safari Rally Kenia, which is taking place from June 24 to 27, will mark the halfway point of the WRC season. After bidding goodbye to the speciality in 2002, the legendary race has returned to the World Championship with a brand new format, more suited to the current times. 

In this way, the old-school routes of over 6,000 km across open sections will give way to a design more in line with 21st-century rallying. Despite these changes, the Safari Rally has vowed to remain true to its essence and maintain its extreme toughness, a characteristic that has made it the most demanding and famous race in the championship. 

Faithful to its original concept, the rally will combine long and dusty tracks, where drivers are expected to exceed the 200 km / h, with very slow rocky and bumpy sections.

The bulk of the race, which consists of 320.19 timed kilometres and 18 stages, will run through the unparalleled natural landscape of the Rift Valley. The native fauna (lions, giraffes and zebras) will become the guests of honour to this magical race. 

The Safari Rally Kenia, which is starting this Thursday, will have a main battleground around Lake Naivasha, 100 km northwest of Nairobi. The service park will be set at the country’s capital. 
On a purely competitive level, none of the crews has ever raced in such a territory. No driver has in fact even been able to train here as tests outside of Europe are prohibited by the organisation. 


Anything can happen with Toyota on top 

Considering all of the above circumstances, as well as the usual unpredictability of this type of challenge, there are a priori no favourites for the Safari Rally Kenia.

Toyota Gazoo Racing arrives in Kenya at the head of both overall, leading the constructors’ standings with 231 points, 49 more than the South Koreans. At the driver’s table, Sébastien Ogier, winner in MontecarloCroatia & Sardegna leads with 106 points, eleven more than his teammate Elfyn Evans. 

Both partners are likely to star in another frenetic battle as they have recurrently done throughout the season, not in vain, they have the most competitive vehicle on the grid, the Yaris WRC.

Between them, they have added four victories so far this year against the single win of the i20 Coupé WRC in Finland with Ott Tänak behind the wheel. Completing the Toyota quartet will be the Finn Kalle Rovanperä and the Japanese Takamoto Katsuta. 

Hyundai needs a victory 

Trying to defeat Toyota, Hyundai Motosport will lineup full-time drivers Ott Tänak and Thierry Neuville will be accompanied by the the Spaniard Dani Sordo. 

After their Sardinian fiasco, where both Tänak and Neuville were knocked out, Hyundai desperately needs a win if it wants to prevent Toyota from escaping away in the standings. 

As for Hyundai’s drivers, Neuville remains the best asset of the South Korean team. He is currently third in the standings with 77 points, 28 behind Ogier. Meanwhile, the Estonian, who had to drop out in both Croatia and Sardinia while running leader, has 49 points, 57 less than the leader. 

M-Sport Ford, McRae´s memories

Finally, M-Sport Ford will compete at the Safari Rally Kenia with the Fiesta WRCs of Gus Greensmith and Adrien Fourmaux, supported by the Italian Lorenzo Bertelli.

Encouraged by the memory of their Safari Rally 2002 victory with Colin McRae, they will try to shine at this unpredictable event, although they are well aware of their opponents’ technical superiority. 

Images of Safari Rally Kenia: Toyota GAZOO Racing.

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