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WRC preview: Rally Safari Kenya

Written by Katie Gregory, Edited by Sean McKean


Image Credit - Toyota Racing

For the third round of the 2024 season, the World Rally Championship will travel to the Kenyan savannah for the ultimate test of endurance. Hailed as one of toughest events on the calendar -  man and machine will have to navigate the mud, rocks and challenging water crossings awaiting them on the 367-kilometre route. 


This event has been brought forward from its usual calendar spot in June, meaning the drivers will face unpredictable weather conditions like no other. The Kenyan climate means the blistering heat could quickly become torrential rain, making the plains muddy and extremely difficult to pass through. 


The need for adaptability in changing conditions will put reliability at the forefront of this weekend’s rally. Teams need to ensure their car is durable enough to fight against any technical problems that the environment may pose. 


Image Credit - Nikos Katikis / DPPI

New regulations mean that teams will be permitted to fit their Rally1 cars with snorkel systems. These systems will help crews navigate deep water and soft sand, whilst also preventing engines from being starved of air. 


Aside from mechanical preparations, another extremely influential factor of the weekend will be luck. While every driver will be hoping they get a dry run, it would also be convenient if the stage became muddy after they secured their time. The weather will play an instrumental part in this weekend's action.


One driver who has already tamed the tricky terrain is Toyota ace and the reigning World Rally Champion, Kalle Rovanperä. The Finnish driver won here in 2022 and even led Toyota to a 1-2-3-4 finish.


Rovanperä faced a disappointing start to his 2024 part-time campaign, damaging his car and ending up in 39th place at Rally Sweden. Nonetheless, the young driver appears to be optimistic of his chances this weekend. 



Speaking to WRC.com, Rovanperä said: It's really exciting to go back to Kenya. It's been quite a good rally for me and also for our team: we have got some really amazing results there. The atmosphere is also great so I'm really looking forward to it."


Kalle Rovanpera after winning Rally Safari in 2022; Image Credit - Red Bull

Further up the field, championship leader Thierry Neuville has everything to prove here, having never won Rally Safari before. The Belgian driver started the season off with a sublime performance in the alps of Monte Carlo and will want to showcase the reliability of his Hyundai i20 N. 


Another Hyundai driver eager to make an impression this weekend is Ott Tänak. Despite showcasing moments of real pace, Tänak went off the road at both Monte Carlo and Rally Sweden. The Estonian driver will need to limit his mistakes completely if he stands any chance of catching up to Neuville. 


The action-packed rally will begin on Wednesday morning with Shakedown, followed by the Super Special Kasarani on Thursday afternoon, totaling 4.84km.


Friday will feature two loops of Loldia, Geothermal and 31.5km of Kedong. Saturday will cover 160.96km through two loops of the challenging Sleeping Warrior stage. Sunday will consist of five stages, with two passes of Hell’s Gate and the second acting as the Power Stage.


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