Shakedown suggests Safari Rally hasn’t lost brutal streak
Oliver Solberg was a late inclusion in the list of competitors who would grace the return of Safari rally to the World Rally Championship but the Swede didn’t take long to learn the brutal nature of the Safari after hitting a tree stump just 3.1km into his first run thus breaking his forward suspension in the Shakedown staged at the Ndulele conservancy.
He however wasn’t the only driver to experience trouble at the first taste of the African terrain, as Lorenzo Bertelli; driving a Fiesta had to stop at this fourth attempt of the shakedown after his radiator started leaking.
However it was a smooth sail for the FIA World Rally Championship standings leader Sebastien Ogier, who finished first in the standings, after showing improvement in each of his four runs as his Toyota Yaris teammate Elfyn Evans finished second with Belgian Thierry Neuville coming third in his Hyundai i20.
Addressing the media in the pre-rally conference, Sebastian Ogier acknowledged the toughness of the Safari but exuded confidence in performing well.
“I don’t know whether it will be the biggest challenge I have faced but it will be tough for all of us as we’ve seen during the shakedown. No one has experience in racing here in such a terrain, and hopefully we won’t have so many cars breaking down.” Ogier assessed.
The French added that it was possible to replicate the old Safari which was longer in distance despite noting that it would require a reduction of distance in some of the stages.
“It would be possible. The cars are more powerful now but we would need to reduce the length of the stages because the tires wouldn’t survive. We just need to live with our time now, it might be less in terms of kilometers but it’s still enticing, maybe easier to win.”
Kenya’s paraplegic Safari rally driver Nikhil Sachani whose car has passed the scrutineering and will race in the WRC event, was full of gratitude at making the cut for the world spectacle.
“It’s been a long time coming and it’s something I used to watch while I was young and the dream is coming true. We’ve been working together with FIA to enable me to compete; the car has passed scrutineering, so we are good to go. We have experienced the terrain before with the previous local rallies and we hope to do well. It’s been a lot of sleepless nights to ensure we are ready and I’m glad we are ready” Said Sachani.
The Kedong and Sleeping warrior stages of the rally have been touted as the toughest, and Sachani was in agreement it would take a lot in making through the gravy terrain unscathed.
“Kedong is the toughest as well as the sleeping warrior especially the last 8km. It’s very rocky and tough, I think that will be a car breaker, but we hope it will be fine.”
It’s an amazing feet achieved by the paraplegic driver and he had some words of encouragement for the physically disabled.
“Just being here proves a lot to anyone with a condition, Motorsport is for everyone – Its mind over matter. I hope to finish in the top 20 at least, but a finish alone will be good enough.”
Onkar Rai, Tejveer Rai and Carlo “Flash” Tundo finished 11th, 12th, and 14th respectively.
Ceremonial flag off of the Safari Rally will be held at the KICC and later drivers will do Recce at the Kasarani Super Special stage ahead of the Friday showdown.
Pos Driver Car Time
- Sébastien OGIER Toyota Yaris 03min 42.6sec
- Elfyn EVANS Toyota Yaris +0.1sec
- Thierry NEUVILLE Hyundai i20 +1.1sec
- Dani SORDO Hyundai i20 +1.9sec
- Takamoto KATSUTA Toyota Yaris +3.0sec
6. Gus GREENSMITH Ford Fiesta +3.1sec
- Kalle ROVANPERÄ Toyota Yaris +3.5sec
- Ott TÄNAK Hyundai i20 +4.6sec
- Adrien FOURMAUX Ford Fiesta +7.4sec
- Lorenzo BERTELLI Ford Fiesta +8.7sec