Safari Rally adventure excites drivers

World rally drivers are looking forward to next year’s WRC Safari Rally Kenya with great expectations.

Speaking in a recent WR Magazine clip, legendary drivers described Kenya’s adventurous terrain and wildlife as exciting features for the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) season.

The Safari Rally awaits it’s long-awaited return to the WRC next year. This is after the 2020 Safari was postponed due to the global pandemic outbreak.

WRC has since confirmed Safari Rally in the first draft of its 2021 calendar ratified by the FIA World Motor Sport Council midyear to provide a first look of what to expect in the 2021 season.

Nine- times World Rally Champion Sebastian Loeb, who is the only active driver to have tasted the rigors of Safari in 2002 when he finished sixth, said: “For me I have amazing memories of Safari with the monkeys and giraffes as well as helicopters flying over each car. For us it was like an adventure like no other.”

Six-times world champion Sabastien Ogier who is likely to shelve his 2020 retirement plans to compete next year’s season said on his part:  “If we look at the past, it’s (Safari) always been something very unique in the calendar. But even today it may not be as different as it used to be, I still expect something exciting and challenging.”

Ogier, who drives for Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC, won the World Rally Drivers’ Championship six times, in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. With 48 victories in the World Rally Championship and 6 consecutive titles, he is the second most successful WRC driver, after former Citroën WRC teammate and namesake Sébastien Loeb with 9 titles.

Tommi Mäkinen, one of the most successful WRC drivers and a four-time World Rally Champion (1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999), on all occasions driving the Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, recalled his Safari adventure with nostalgia.

“Safari back then was always an endurance event instead of a high performance competition. It’s an event that would offer everything you could expect from the wild animals to challenging roads,” Makinen who is the Team Principal of Toyota Gazoo Racing said.

WRC Champion and leader Ott Tänak, currently competing for Hyundai WRC remarked: “Safari is something very unique and special. The element of giraffes and elephants will add some more zest to the event next year and the roads as well.”

Tänak finished third in WRC overall drivers’ standings, behind rivals Thierry Neuville and Sebastien Ogier in 2017 and 2018. He then achieved his maiden drivers’ world title in the 2019 WRC, making him the first Estonian to win the driver’s championship, the first non-Frenchman to win the title since Petter Solberg in 2003 and the first for Toyota since Didier Auriol in 1994.

Meanwhile, Kenyan organizers are leaving nothing to chance ahead of next year’s WRC Safari Rally as groundwork is already in top gear.

WRC Safari Rally Chief Executive Officer, Phineas Kimathi is grateful for the Government’s input which he says has played a key role in making sure preparations for WRC Safari  are tiptop.

“I would like to thank the government for demonstrating their commitment, and I’d like to also thank the Cabinet Secretary for Sports Hon. Amina Mohamed for her leadership and guidance to make sure we have all the necessary support,” Kimathi said.


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