By Mwambazi Lawrence

In the heart of Africa, where mud, rocks, fesh fesh sand, and water crossings converge against the breathtaking backdrop of African wildlife, lies the iconic Safari Rally Kenya. As the ultimate endurance test, this Naivasha based rally stands as one of the most revered fixtures on the global motorsport calendar. Scheduled in its traditional Easter slot, this year’s rally coincides with the onset of the Kenyan rainy season, promising an additional layer of challenge to an already grueling event. Indeed, weather conditions could play a pivotal role in determining the victor, potentially favoring the most seasoned crews. Let’s delve into the details and see who is poised to conquer this formidable challenge.


Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

With victories secured in Monte Carlo and Sweden, Hyundai enters the Safari Rally Kenya on the hunt for a trio of triumphs, already having equaled their tally for the entirety of the previous season. Leading the charge is Thierry Neuville, determined to extend his lead in the drivers’ championship. However, Kenya has historically proved to be a challenging terrain for the Belgian driver, with his best finish being a modest 5th place in 2022.

Accompanying Neuville is Sweden winner, Esapekka Lappi, fresh from breaking the record for the longest gap between victories in the World Rally Championship (WRC). Ott Tanak, the 2019 world champion, faces the pressure to redeem himself following a rocky start to the season, marred by setbacks including a mishap in Rally Monte Carlo and a disappointing 41st position finish in Sweden. With a significant point deficit already, Tanak can ill-afford further slip-ups as he endeavors to close the gap on his championship-leading teammate.

Toyota’s Dominance and the Title Race

Notably, Toyota boasts an impeccable record in Kenya, having secured victory in all events since the WRC’s return to the country in 2021. The team’s dominance was further underscored by successive top-four lockouts in both 2022 and 2023. Despite Hyundai’s strong showing in the initial rounds, the manufacturers find themselves tied at the top of the standings, setting the stage for an intense battle for supremacy.

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

In the title race, Elfyn Evans trails Thierry Neuville by a mere three points following a commanding performance in the final day of Rally Sweden, securing 11 of the 12 bonus points on offer. Meanwhile, Kalle Rovanpera, the 2022 Safari Rally winner, remains a contender despite setbacks in Sweden. Takamoto Katsuta, aiming for greater patience after a setback in Sweden, boasts a strong track record in Kenya, with two podium finishes and a consistent presence in the top four.

Adrien Fourmaux’s Rise

Elsewhere, attention is drawn to the rise of Fourmaux, currently positioned third in the drivers’ standings. The MSport driver’s strong start to the season, coupled with a notable podium finish in Sweden, signals a potential breakthrough moment on the horizon. However, challenges persist, as illustrated by Gregoire Munster’s resourcefulness in overcoming adversity during Rally Sweden, a testament to the unpredictable nature of motorsport.

Adrien Fourmaux and co-driver Alexandre Coria 

The Unpredictable Kenyan Terrain

As drivers prepare to tackle the Safari Rally Kenya, they must confront the unique challenges posed by the African terrain. Snorkels, high ride heights, and soft suspensions become imperative as they navigate rocky sections, some requiring speeds barely surpassing a walking pace. Moreover, the onset of heavy rains adds an additional layer of complexity to an already arduous rally. The 2023 edition’s “Sleeping Warrior 2” stage serves as a poignant reminder of the ever-changing conditions, with sudden floods wreaking havoc on engines and costing valuable time.

A Battle of Titans in the WRC2

Beyond the main event, the battle in WRC2 promises its own share of excitement, with contenders such as Oliver Solberg, Gus Greensmith, Nicholas Ciamin, and Kajeyan Kajetanowicz vying for supremacy. Solberg, fresh from a home victory in Sweden, stands tied at the top of the standings with Monte Carlo winner Yowan Rosel. Notably, Local favorites Carlo Tundo and Karan Patel add an extra layer of intrigue, while FIA Junior WRC regular Diego Deminguez makes his WRC2 debut in a Citroen C3 also adds to the competitive mix, ensuring that every moment of the Safari Rally Kenya is filled with suspense and spectacle.

As Safari Rally Kenya fast aproaches, enthusiasts around the globe eagerly await the spectacle that is set to unfold against the backdrop of Africa’s untamed wilderness. With championship aspirations, redemption quests, and the allure of uncharted terrain, the stage is set for an unforgettable motorsport extravaganza. So, as the engines roar to life and the dust settles, one thing is certain, in the unforgiving landscape of Kenya, anything can happen, and every moment counts. Stay tuned, and don’t miss a single heartbeat of the Safari Rally Kenya.

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