Another round between Sébastien Ogier, who defends his triumph in the Kenya Safari Rally last year against Sébastien Loeb, who face each other for the first time on the unforgivable terrain of Africa. It is obvious that it is reductive to reduce this event to the two ‘monsters’ of rallying, but when we are getting closer and closer to their definitive farewell to rallies, we always congratulate ourselves on the times we will still see them compete. Ogier won Safari in 2021, when the sub-Saharan classic returned to the series after an absence of 19 years and for Loeb, a return, as he participated in the race in 2002.
The Safari Rally is the sixth round of the World Championship in a race full of exotic wildlife, including lions, leopards, giraffes, zebras and hippos. But the drivers will be more interested in the long and straight roads where speeds can reach 200 km/h, which sometimes contrast with rocky tracks that greatly reduce the speed of cars. Interestingly, to increase tension, thunderstorms are forecast for the four days.
If the meteorologists are correct, the rain will turn the floors into treacherous mud baths within minutes: “Last year we had a very pleasant reception and a great atmosphere,” said Ogier. “Winning was the icing on the cake and it will be great to try to repeat that this year with a little knowledge of what to expect from the stages. It’s definitely a rally where you never have to give up, and this year with the cars still so new, maybe we have to be even smarter than before,” he added.
Toyota’s lineup is completed with Kalle Rövanperä, Elfyn Evans, who withdrew last year on the opening day of the race, and 2021 runner-up Takamoto Katsuta.
So far, Rovanperä has shown incredible form, with three wins in five rallies. He leads the standings by 55 points, but could be at a disadvantage when opening the roads in Kenya, as he has already done in Portugal and Sardinia, where he had different ‘lucks’. In Portugal he won, in Sardinia he was fifth..
Sébastien Loeb is part of a five-car lineup at M-Sport Ford. He is joined by Craig Breen, fourth in the championship, Gus Greensmith, Adrien Fourmaux and gentleman driver Jourdan Serderidis.
At Hyundai, Thierry Neuville is on the ‘hunt’ for redemption after his fight for triumph in 2021 turned sour. The Belgian led the majority of the event and was on his way to victory before his Hyundai i rear suspension broke derailed the challenge.
Neuville joins Sardinia Rally winner Ott Tänak as well as Oliver Solberg, who replaces Dani Sordo in the team’s third i20 N car: ‘” explained Neuville. “It’s a tough event and weather can also play a big factor, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, will flag the contestants’ departure at lunchtime on Thursday. Then 19 special ‘stages’ around Lakes Naivasha and Elmenteita, covering 363.44 km before the rally ends on Sunday afternoon in Naivasha.
Wednesday, June 22
Shakedown (Loldia) 5.40 km 08:01
Thursday, June 23
PEC1 Super Special Kasarani 4.84 km 12:08
Thursday, June 23
Friday, June 24th
PEC2 Loldia 1 19.17 km 06:00
PEC3 Geothermal 1 11.68 km 07:18
PEC4 Kedong 1 31.25 km 08:1
Flexi Service B – KWS Naivasha – 30 Min
PEC5 Loldia 2 19.17 km 11:09
PEC6 Geothermal 2 11.68 km 12:27
PEC7 Kedong 2 31.25 km 13:20
Flexi Service C – KWS Naivasha – 45 Min
Saturday, 25th of June
PEC8 Soysambu 1 29.32 km 06:06
PEC9 Elmenteita 1 15.08 km 07:08
PEC10 Sleeping Warrior 1 31.04 km 08:01
Flexi Service E – KWS Naivasha – 30 Min
PEC11 Soysambu 2 29.32 km 12:07
PEC12 Elmenteita 2 15.08 km 13:08
PEC13 Sleeping Warrior 2 31.04 km 14:01
Flexi Service F – KWS Naivasha – 45 Min
Sunday, June 26
PEC14 Oserian 1 17.52 km 05:05
PEC15 Narasha 1 13.30 km 06:08
PEC16 Hell’s Gate 1 10.53 km 07:08
Flexi Service H – KWS Naivasha – 15 Min
PEC17 Oserian 2 17.52 km 09:29
PEC18 Narasha 2 13.30 km 10:3
PEC19 Hell’s Gate 2 [Power Stage] 10.53 km 12:18