El World Rally Championship recovers this weekend one of its most traditional races: the Kenya Safari Rally, although in a format adapted to these new times. With this return ends a 19-year run without the WRC on African soil.
Historically, the Safari Rally featured incredibly long stages on roads that were still open to the public but, for its return it will take place on closed roads with a format similar to other modern rounds of the WRC.
Still, there is the expectation of a demanding event on rugged and rocky tracks, with the possibility of heavy rains transforming the dry and dusty surface into deep mud.
The rally will start on Thursday at lunchtime from the capital city, Nairobi, with a nearby super special in Kasarani to kick off competitive action. The rest of the event takes place closer to the service park on the shores of the lake Naivasha, about 100 kilometers to the northwest.
Friday consists of three stages south of the lake, all with two races, before a move further north on Saturday to the roads around the Elmenteita lake for another trio of repeat tests. The rally ends on Sunday with a total of five stages around Naivasha.
The African rally will be a new challenge for all WRC drivers, including the seven-time world champion Sébastien Ogier, who leads the championship by 11 points over his teammate Elfyn Evans after winning the last round in Sardinia.
“I think it can be interesting to have a challenge like this once a year. It has been difficult to know what is the correct way to prepare, so I think that the drivers will probably have to adapt to the rally. ", analyzed Ogier, who was the fastest in the shakedown.
The Safari Rally Kenya had its first World Cup edition in 1973, which was left to the local Shekhar Mehta (Datsun 240Z). In 2002 the competition said goodbye to the WRC with the triumph of the remembered Scotsman Colin McRae (Ford Focus RS).