Safari Rally History and Preview
Updated: Sep 8, 2022
Written by Apostolos Papageorgiou, Edited by Leah Brown
The WRC (World Rally Championship), the highest level of global rally driving competition, heads to an absolute classic this week, the Safari Rally in Kenya, so let's take a look at how the drivers and teams will fare. But first, here are some important things to know about the rally.
The first Safari Rally was held in 1953, to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. It continued to take place in the 60s and 70s, becoming part of the World Rally Championship in 1974. Kenya was no ordinary rally however, as it was the longest on the calendar, over double the length of other rallies. With its rough roads, sky-high temperatures and unpredictable weather, it earned its reputation as the toughest rally of the season.
Unfortunately, Kenya was dropped from the WRC calendar after 2002, although it was still held each year as part of the African Rally Championship. The Kenya Rally was set to make a comeback in 2020 but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was successfully reintroduced to the WRC calendar in 2021 after a 19-year absence.
Last year, Frenchman Sébastien Ogier emerged victorious, though it won’t be easy to repeat the feat this year, especially because his countryman and arch rival, Sébastien Loeb, will also be competing. Apart from them, Welsh driver Elfyn Evans will be hoping for a trouble-free weekend as he looks to get his title challenge underway. Hyundai drivers Ott Tänak and Thierry Neuville, from Estonia and Belgium, respectively, will also be hoping for a clean rally while matching the Toyotas of Ogier and Evans on pace.
Current championship leader, Finland’s Kalle Rovanperä, is likely to struggle, as he is tasked with sweeping the road on the first day, though Kenya’s unpredictable weather might play into his hands. Sweden’s Oliver Solberg and France’s Adrien Fourmaux will be looking to get their 2022 campaigns properly underway after disappointing results so far, with Gus Greensmith of England also trying to find his early season form. Greek driver Jourdan Serderidis enters the race as the first privateer to purchase a Ford Puma Rally1 car. Lastly, expect a surprise from Ireland’s Craig Breen and Japan’s Takamoto Katsuta, who finished second here last year.
Toyota looks to be the favourites to take the win, although Hyundai could match the Japanese manufacturer’s pace, provided they hold together. As for M-Sport, they could pull off a surprise result. After all, they’ve won here in the rally’s original incarnation. With so many variables, Kenya looks set to be an absolute thriller!