Safari Rally Kenya 2022 – The Final Day. Toyota celebrates!

The final day then had 15km’s over six stages. Big gaps throughout the top ten meant that for there to be a big change in the standing, something very big would need to happen. The startlist looked like this – Fourmaux, Greensmith, Tänak, Loeb, Breen, Neuville, Serderidis, Solberg, Ogier, Katsuta, Evans, Rovanperä.

First up was SS14 Oserian 1 – 17.52 km and the only five cars completed the stage. They were Adrien who was fastest, Thierry, Gus, Seb Loeb and Gus. The stage was stopped when Oliver became buried in the fesh-fesh very early in the stage and could not get moving again. The top three were Adrien, Seb Loeb and Seb Ogier, who owed this to his nominal time given later. It seemed that being first on the road was the place to be, if you were going to be fast with stages that had a long section of fesh-fesh.

Onto SS15 Narasha 1 – 13.30 km and Kalle was fastest from Elfyn and Thierry. The young Finn now had an even bigger lead over Elfyn, close to 50 seconds. Seb Loeb showed the pace that the Puma could show with the fourth best time despite his starting position.

Next up was SS16 Hell’s Gate 1 – 10.53 km, run before the service break, something very unusual for Sunday’s. Ott was fastest from Thierry and Seb Ogier. Kalle opened up his lead again over Elfyn, and it was just four seconds short of a full minute. Craig was still going, but just cruising through the stages, whilst Seb Loeb was the fastest Puma driver, just six tenths of a second from the third best time.

The second run of SS17 Oserian 2 – 14.83 km saw the stage trimmed a little, and the crews starting further into the stage and away from the fesh-fesh section. Seb Loeb was fastest from Adrien and Seb Ogier. Loeb’s time brought him ahead of Kajetan and into ninth overall. Meanwhile Kalle took his lead over Elfyn to 1 minute, 2.3 seconds.

Onto the penultimate stage then, SS18 Narasha 2 – 13.30 km and it was a third stage win for Seb Loeb from Seb Ogier and Takamoto. We did lose another car and crew, with Ott and Martin retiring with failed powersteering and this brought his challenge to an end. His teammate also suffered a problem, with Oliver taking a penalty for starting the stage late and he dropped behind Kajetan who now was in ninth overall again.

Finally, it was time for SS19 Hell’s Gate 2 [Power Stage] – 10.53 km and as usual there was a change to the startlist – Johnston (WRC2), Kajetanowicz (WRC2), Greensmith, Fourmaux, Loeb, Solberg, Serderidis, Breen, Neuville, Ogier, Katsuta, Evans, Rovanperä. Seb Loeb set the early pace going fastest, before Thierry came through and set the fastest time whilst Seb Ogier was third, Gus fourth and Adrien fifth fastest. Kalle took victory though from Elfyn and Takamoto, the Japanese driver repeating his podium finish from last year, albite not in second this time, and Seb Ogier was fourth meaning that Toyota celebrated an incredible 1, 2, 3, 4. The closest Hyundai crew was Thierry in fifth place, but over eight minutes behind following his restart and other problems on these tricky stages.

Here’s the final top ten and driver comments after an amazing rally.

Final Overall Classification – Safari Rally Kenya

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 3:40:24.9
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +52.8
3 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:42.7
4 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:10.3
5 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +10:40.9
6 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +23:27.9
7 J. Serderidis F. Miclotte Ford Puma Rally1 +30:16.5
8 S. Loeb I. Galmiche Ford Puma Rally1 +32:12.6
9 K. Kajetanowicz M. Szczepaniak Škoda Fabia Evo +35:37.6
10 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +37:36.6

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“This is a result that I don’t think we could have even imagined before the event. To have a top four that is all Toyota is something amazing and such a great result for the team. It was the hardest rally I’ve ever done, so to have all four cars at the finish with no big issues, it’s clearly the strongest and fastest car. For myself to get the win here like this in such a special rally is really nice. Thank you to the team, everybody did a great job. They are developing the car all the time which is important and that’s helping us to put some good results together.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally Kenya 2022 / 22nd-68th June, 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“It’s been a really nice weekend. Of course, we really wanted to fight for the win, but that slipped away from us on Saturday with one thing or another, and today was about securing this 1-2-3-4 for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing which is obviously a fantastic result to be a part of. It was a tough fight to get through this extreme terrain here in Kenya and while everybody else has struggled, our cars have really come through it so a big well done to the team.”

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“It has been a really strong weekend. I was only missing a bit of luck but that’s part of the game. Most of all, I’m happy to be a part of this amazing result for the team and I want to congratulate everybody at TOYOTA GAZOO Racing because it’s been a great effort to provide all four of us drivers with such a strong car for three full days on the toughest rally of the season. This rally was a tough challenge up to the end so the whole team deserves a big round of applause, and also my team-mates because they drove very well this weekend.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (5th)

“We have achieved the maximum we could. Taking fifth place after all the trouble and mess we have experienced can probably be called a satisfying result. It has been a tough and challenging weekend, and this morning was no exception. Our focus was clearly on getting something from the Power Stage, which we managed at least. There’s not much more to say. The situation is obvious. I am really disappointed, not just for us but also for the mechanics, who have been working so hard, but like us don’t get the reward.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Safari Rally Kenya
23-26 June 2022
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 N Rally1, Action during Day 3 of WRC Safari Rally Kenya 2022
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Oliver Solberg (10th)

“On the positive side, it’s been a much better Safari Rally Kenya than I had last year. It’s still not the result we had hoped for, but that’s part of rallying. My thanks to all the mechanics, without whom we would not have been able to reach the end of this challenging event. Nothing is possible if we don’t have their expertise and hard work, so very big thanks to them all. We know as a team we have a lot of work to do, but we’ll be flat out from here.”

Ott Tänak (DNF)

“This Safari Rally itself has been quite fun this year with some incredibly demanding conditions. From our side, we have had a very safe approach, not taking any risks. On the first day, things worked out quite well, but unfortunately on Saturday we had a transmission issue and today we have had a power steering problem. We can’t take any points from here, but it is what it is; we must learn from this and move forward. There are many things for the engineers to take away and I hope we’ll be in a better shape for Estonia.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen (6th)

“The experience has been nice; I’ve never been in the country so I’ve been taking it all in. From a sporting point of view, it hasn’t gone all that well which is a pity especially off the back of Sardinia, I thought we were going to get in a rhythm over a couple of events. It all just kind of flowed against us this weekend. There was a lot of potential in the car this weekend, Seb showed that. Friday was really good, I was really happy as the pace was nice, that last stage in the evening was flowing well and then it all just snowballed downward from there with the problems that we had.”

Sebastien Loeb (9th)

“We had bad luck on day one because the technical problem we had was a little detail, a small tube started to leak and then the car didn’t start so I finished five kilometres from the service. The next day was going quite well, we had an issue with the steering arm but the team will be able to fix it as it was the first really rough rally of the season with new cars. I am a bit frustrated about the classification because our speed was quite good and we were able to fight at the front and did some good times.”

Adrien Fourmaux (14th)

“Sunday was a good day, I had a really good feeling in the car, pushing on the first stage of the loop each time and we made good times with fastest and second fastest. I also claimed my first power stage points which I am very proud of. They were the positives of the weekend, overall, it has been a really tough rally for all of the team but we have learned a lot and will come back stronger.”

Gus Greensmith (15th)

“We started really well as a team with three cars in the top five but unfortunately that didn’t last very long. We had a puncture; I didn’t realise I had had it for so long because the ground was so soft and we damaged a rim as well as some parts of the car. From that point then it was tricky and we had the roll which, as much as I was driving just to finish, it is just one of those things. I felt I needed to help the guys out so I offered my help, as much as it was the clerical work rather than the mechanical work. It was nice to round off the weekend with some power stage points and to give us a bit of a silver lining to the weekend.”

Summary

Well, what can I say? What an incredible drive from Kalle and Jonne. The key moment that decided this rally in the young Finns favour were the stages at the end of Saturday. He put some amazing times in and pretty much doubled his lead, when Elfyn had been closing on him.

Elfyn and Scott drove really well, and completed this event unlike last year. They took a couple of stage wins as well, showing that they could be on the pace as well and fight at the front. They remain sixth in the championship.

Takamoto and Aaron took a superb third place having set some very good stage times and kept out of trouble as well. It was Aaron’s first WRC podium as well, and what a place to get it!

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally Kenya 2022 / 22nd-68th June, 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After Round Six

1 K. Rovanperä 145
2 T. Neuville 80
3 O. Tänak 62
4 T. Katsuta 62
5 C. Breen 60
6 E. Evans 57
7 S. Loeb 35
8 S. Ogier 34
9 D. Sordo 34
10 G. Greensmith 28
11 P. Loubet 18
12 E. Lappi 17
13 A. Mikkelsen 12
14 O. Solberg 9

 

2022 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After Round Six

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 246
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 184
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 144
4 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team NG 68

 

Next up is Rally Estonia over the weekend of the 14th to the 17th of July. Pop back in the week before to take a look at my preview.

Safari Rally Kenya 2022, Day Two – Toyota continue to hold the lead

Well, Saturday’s action had everything. With 150km’s over six stages it would be a big challenge for the crews. The startlist looked like this – Loeb, Fourmaux, Breen, Greensmith, Serderidis, Solberg, Ogier, Neuville, Tänak, Evans, Katsuta, Rovanperä.

First up was SS8 Soysambu 1 – 29.32 km, a very long stage to get Saturday underway, and Elfyn won the stage from Thierry and Kalle. The Welshman’s pace moved him ahead of Takamoto and closer to Kalle, the gap now down to 16.1 seconds. Seb Loeb opened the road, but still set a very good time good enough for fifth fastest. His teammate, Craig went well as well and passed Kajetan for eighth overall, but the Pole remained firmly in the lead of WRC2.

 

The much shorter SS9 Elmenteita 1 – 15.08 km was won by Theirry from Seb Loeb and Ott. Elfyn was faster than Kalle but by only 1.1 seconds. Craig remained the highest placed M-Sport driver, holding eighth place, and just driving very carefully. Unfortunately, Gus rolled his car in the stage but he got the car back onto its wheels with some help and completed the stage. His teammate Adrien retired though with broken suspension.

The first run of SS10 Sleeping Warrior 1 – 31.04 km, a spectacular run across the plains saw Thierry win a second stage in a row from Kalle and Elfyn. Sadly, there was drama with the Belgians teammate suffering a mechanical problem with his i20 and he pulled over with just about two kilometres left and retired for the day from fourth overall. Gus went on to finish this stage, but retired at the end, the engine having suffered with the low-speed roll.

Elfyn won the second run of SS11 Soysambu 2 – 29.32 km as well, with Kalle second fastest, 3.6 seconds slower and Takamoto third. The Japanese driver now had a good gap over Thierry, and was holding third place. The demise of Ott meant that Craig was now up to seventh overall, despite getting a puncture in the stage.

The following stage, SS12 Elmenteita 2 – 15.08 km was hit by heavy rain at least an hour before it started, and the last five kilometres were affected. Kalle won the stage from Thierry and Elfyn. The Belgian passed Takamoto for third place overall as well after the Japanese driver could only manage the sixth best time. Elfyn said that he could not see anything, so just had a safe run through as best he could. Kalle now had a 27.1 second lead. The end part of the stage was starting to dry, so he had the best possible conditions to drive.

On to the final stage of the day then, SS13 Sleeping Warrior 2 – 31.04 km and this stage had also had some of the rain dropped onto it, with the wet conditions starting at around ten kilometres. Seb Ogier set the best time from Kalle and Takamoto. The drive by the Japanese was great, when you consider that he had a puncture as well. Elfyn’s speed was also affected as his windscreen got covered in mud and he could not see. There were worse problems for Thierry, Oliver and also Seb Loeb. The Belgian had the worse of it and crashed into a tree, whilst his teammate Oliver’s engine cut out twice. He managed to finish though. Seb Loeb had a huge problem as his front left suspension broke at around half distance in the stage. The whole assembly was moving around and the tyre touching the wheel arch, making for some interesting sounds in the car. Still, he managed to finish the stage and was now in tenth overall.

 

Let’s take a look at the standings and hear from the drivers.

 Classification after Day Two

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 2:52:39.7
2 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +40.3
3 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +1:25.6
4 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:38.3
5 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +10:59.3
6 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +12:19.1
7 C. Breen P. Nagle Ford Puma Rally1 +18:56.1

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“It has been another tough day like we expected. Today the stages were not so soft but with the rocks and ruts it was still hard for the cars. In our position it was not so easy to try to avoid all the stones and bad places but still try to push. The conditions that came in the afternoon were really tricky. It was my first time driving here in the rain because I didn’t experience that last year and it was quite a surprise with no grip at all and so much standing water. I tried to keep it clean and find the grip from somewhere. Tomorrow is much longer than a normal Sunday so there is still a proper day of driving ahead. We need to stay sharp because still anything can happen.”

Elfyn Evans (2nd)

“I wasn’t giving too much thought to the times of anyone else today, I was mostly just trying to pick my way through the conditions. The morning was quite nice, and a bit more predictable than yesterday in terms of where it was going to be rough, but it was still difficult to judge the speed correctly all of the time. Then in the muddy conditions this afternoon it was pretty difficult, as I had a small issue cleaning the screen. I decided to try and keep the risk down but it’s impossible not to have the odd slide in conditions like that. As a team we’re in a great position but tomorrow will still be challenging with two passes of all the stages, and the second loop especially could be very interesting.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally Kenya 2022 / 22nd-68th June, 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“Today I knew I couldn’t catch any positions from speed alone so there was no point in pushing like crazy – I just tried to stay out of trouble and reach the end. This morning the conditions were a bit more controllable than yesterday and I could keep a good rhythm without pushing the car too much, because it was still very rough. Then this afternoon after the rain there were many tricky sections and a lot of rhythm changes. In some places the ruts were full of water and we knew we had to be careful. With the conditions getting better I just tried to get through cleanly. Now it’s only my team-mates in front and I don’t wish them any bad luck, because if we can bring it home like this it’s an amazing result for Toyota.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (5th)

“A challenging afternoon after a trouble-free morning in which we set two fastest stage times in Elmenteita and Sleeping Warrior. We were able to climb back to fourth position in the classification, 7.4 seconds from the podium. In the second loop, we lost some bodywork in the bumpy section of SS11. We then got hit by some electrical issues at the end of SS12 as the alternator belt went. Somehow Martijn and I made the impossible possible by fixing the car to get to the last stage just in time. A couple of kilometres in, a huge water puddle sucked water into the engine and the car stopped. It took us four minutes to get restarted but with bad visibility caused by mud on the screen, 200 metres further on we went straight into a tree. The overall classification has not been too greatly affected, we keep fifth place, and we will continue tomorrow to try and grab some points at least.”

Oliver Solberg (6th)

“The only way I can summarise today is crazy. We have been very lucky to make it to the end. We had a hectic start to the day after I clipped a big rock in the opening stage, which bent an arm. I had to take it easy to get through. For the second one, I changed it, but I made a mistake, so it was wobbling around a bit. Then, the final stage of the loop was just really rough. We had nothing to gain today, either ahead of us or behind, so we wanted to keep on the road and maintain our position. We made some changes at lunchtime which improved the feeling; the start of the second loop was a night and day difference. Then the rain came which made things even crazier. The final stage was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, and even if it was far from easy and trouble-free, we survived to face another day.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Safari Rally Kenya
22-26 June 2022
Oliver Solberg, Elliott Edmondson, Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (SuperRally)

“Suddenly, we heard some noise and immediately had fire in the car, so we stopped to check. It was somewhere in the transmission and the underbody of the car is closed, so we couldn’t really see what was wrong. We tried to continue but even going slowly it was catching fire so we would have burned the car. It’s frustrating but looking overall the rally has been quite good in some ways, very demanding and challenging. Yesterday we were playing in the sand, and today it was rocks and general roughness. I started the day safely, checking things out to make sure there were no surprises, but unfortunately the prop shaft ended our day.”

Sunday

The final day features a very long day with 83km’s over six stages. A proper day of rallying for sure. Kalle may have a good lead, but we’ve seen that anything is possible with this rally. Pop back tomorrow for my final day report.

Safari Rally Kenya 2022 – Day One Report. Toyota hold the lead.

The first day had everything, so here’s what happened in the first full day of competition. The startlist looked like this – Rovanperä, Neuville, Tänak, Breen, Katsuta, Evans, Loeb, Greensmith, Ogier, Solberg, Fourmaux, Serderidis.

Seb Loeb won the first stage, SS2 Loldia 1 – 19.17 km from Elfyn and Seb Ogier. Thierry who did hold second overall after SS1 fell six places to eighth. Our new top three was Ogier, Evans and Loeb. Meanwhile, Ott in his Hyundai had a big problem with his gear lever having broken, so he could only use it when changing down, but the thing broke off completely before the end of the stage, meaning he was having to lean forwards to use the selector at the bottom of his seat. The championship leader was down in ninth overall at this point.

Next up was SS3 Geothermal 1 – 11.68 km, a new stage for this year. This was interesting as Kalle was fastest from Takamoto and Elfyn. The stage was getting slower with each passing car which was crazy really. Ott had used a wheel brace as a temporary gear change lever, but was still having trouble. Never the less he still managed the fifth best time.

Onto the longest stage then of the day, SS4 Kedong 1 – 31.25 km and chaos ruled! Once again Kalle took the stage win from Ott and Takamoto. Incredibly the championship leader was now up to third overall, just 11 seconds from the leader, who was now Elfyn. Both Seb’s fell down the leaderboard, with Ogier now in second and Loeb in fifth.

After the lunchtime break and service Ogier won SS5 Loldia 2 – 19.17 km from Takamoto and Kalle. Elfyn fell down from the lead to third after getting a puncture in the stage, whist Kalle was now holding fourth. Takamoto was now second overall.

The second run of SS6 Geothermal 2 – 11.68 km saw Ogier take the stage win from Takamoto and Kalle. Elfyn fell behind Kalle into fourth overall. Just 14 seconds covered the top four at this point.

The final stage then of the day, SS7 Kedong 2 – 31.25 km and Kalle won it again from Thierry and Ott. The championship leaders pace meant that he moved into the lead of the rally again as the former leader Ogier suffered a puncture and he stopped to change it, losing a minute. He was now in sixth place. Others also having trouble were Thierry with a puncture and Craig who went off and broke his steering.

Well, what an amazing first day in the wilds of Kenya. Let’s take a look at the top ten and hear from the drivers.

Classification after Day One

1 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 1:20:58.1
2 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +14.6
3 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +22.4
4 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +25.3
5 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +57.5
6 S. Ogier B. Veillas Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 +2:08.2
7 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Hyundai i20 N Rally1 +4:27.1

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (1st)

“It has been quite a good day for us. The conditions were very tricky in the last stage of the loop on both passes with the deep sand and I’m really happy to have made it through. The other two stages were not so bad – there was some cleaning to do for us, even on the second pass, but they were quite enjoyable to drive. I think we did a good job and we’re in a nice position now. Tomorrow will be another challenge and the plan will be the same: to try and drive at the same pace and avoid any issues.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally Kenya 2022 / 22nd-26th June, 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (3rd)

“It’s been tough out there and a bit of an up-and-down day to be honest. The first stage of the loop today was really quite a nice stage and I had a good rhythm there, but on the longest stage the conditions were quite rough, and when it gets extreme like that it’s so hard to know how hard to push and it looks like I haven’t pushed hard enough. But we’re still here and that’s the positive thing. The car has been working really well but we know the rally could keep getting tougher.”

Sébastien Ogier (6th)

“Up until the last stage it was a good day. The rhythm was good and I tried not to attack too much because we know that it’s important to manage things on this rally. The last stage was the one we all feared the most today because we knew there were some rough and rocky sections. With 10 kilometres still to go we had no choice but to stop and change the tyre, because it would not have been possible to get through the ‘fesh-fesh’ near the end on three wheels. It’s never good to lose two minutes, but there are still two days to go and many things can still happen. We just need our luck to turn.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (4th)

“At the beginning of the rally, we thought this would be the easiest day, but we’ve already been playing on the limit. It’s been a challenging survival day, and we’ve been fighting more with the rally itself than with our competitors. The first two stages of the loop were quite fun, and it was down to pure performance, but the final one was something else. In the first 20km, it’s rocky and difficult to avoid the stones. We knew if we had a puncture there, we’d have no chance, so we just tried to get through cleanly. After that came 5-10km of fesh-fesh, you must keep full throttle through there despite not seeing anything, otherwise you get stuck. We need a vacuum cleaner on our lungs because it’s difficult to breathe. It’s important to keep going.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Safari Rally Kenya
21-26 June 2022
Ott Tanak
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville (5th)

“A very challenging day for us; we obviously knew it would be hard but unfortunately, we got hit by some trouble on the first pass on the long stage, Kedong. We lost power as the air filter became blocked with sand and dust. We dropped almost one minute of time with that, and down to ninth place. The target for the afternoon was to have a cleaner run, which we managed, and as a result we’ve moved back up to fifth. The gap to the lead is just under a minute and getting closer. I’ve not been 100% happy with the handling of the car so far, which has limited us in the bumpy sections. I haven’t been able to go as fast as last year, but we’ll make some changes to try and improve. Tomorrow is the hardest, roughest day so we’ll have to be clever and avoid problems.”

Oliver Solberg (7th)

I am very happy to get the car back to service at the end of this incredibly tough day. I would go as far as to say this last stage is the craziest one that I’ve ever driven in my entire life. I’ve struggled a lot today, to be honest. The car hasn’t felt good for me, but we survived with no mistakes, which remains the aim for this weekend. The driving itself feels OK when it’s nice and flowing, and you can push a bit, but when it’s rocky it’s something else. This is still a very long event, and tomorrow looks set to be even more demanding in a different way. Seventh place is nothing when we have so much ahead; we hope to climb further up the leader board.”

Saturday

Tomorrow sees the crew tackle 150km over six more stages. It will be another challenging day on the plains of Kenya! Be sure to pop back and check out my day two report.

Safari Rally Kenya 2022 Preview – Round Six

Here we go then, after a great return to the championship last year, it’s time for the new Rally1 cars to tackle the amazing stages in Kenya! This year features 362.62km over nineteen stages. Shakedown takes place at 8am UK time on Wednesday morning. It will be interesting who is on the pace and at the front of the field.

 

Safari Rally Kenya begins on Thursday with the Super Special Kasarani (4.84km)

Friday’s running consists of two passes each of Loldia (19.17km), Geothermal (11.68km) and Kedong (31.25km)

Two loops of Soysambu (29.32km), Elmenteita (15.08km) and Sleeping Warrior (31.04km) on Saturday make it the longest day of the event in terms of distance, totalling 150.88km

The rally concludes on Sunday with the crews twice tackling Oserian (17.93km), Narasha (13.30km) and Hell’s Gate (10.53km).

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (Championship leader)

“I think the Safari Rally will be another interesting weekend. Of course, Sardinia was maybe not as strong a rally for us as we wanted it to be, but I’m hoping that in Kenya maybe we will not lose so much time opening the road and we can try to have a good weekend. Last year, it was a good rally for us overall, we were just a bit unlucky to get stuck when we did at the end of Friday. This year we will try to avoid things like that and tackle the event in a better way, because we see a lot of difficult conditions there and things we don’t normally see in modern rallies. So for sure it’s a special place and you need to approach it a bit differently too.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally, Kenya / 22-27 June, 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (Sixth in Championship)

“Even though we have experience from last year, it’s always difficult to know exactly what we’re going to face on an event like the Safari Rally. There’s always an element of the unknown, and we saw last year that the conditions can change massively from one area to the next. Some sections can be very soft sand, some parts are much more hard-packed, and in other places it’s very rough. It’s a big challenge for the drivers, for the cars and for the engineers as well. I’ve had a good feeling with the GR YARIS Rally1 on gravel so far and the speed has been there. Safari requires something slightly different in terms of setup but hopefully that positive feeling will still carry forward.”

Sébastien Ogier (Tenth in Championship)

“I’m looking forward to returning to Kenya. Last year we had a really nice welcome and a great atmosphere. It was something special and different to what we are used to. To win was the cherry on the cake and it will be great to try to repeat that this year with a bit of knowledge of what to expect from the stages. We saw that it can be a very tough rally; I think nearly everybody had an issue at some point and we came back from over two minutes down to win. So, it’s definitely a rally where you have to never give up, and this year with the cars still being so new, we might have to be even more clever than before.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (Second in Championship)

“Last year was my first time in Kenya and I have some good memories from it. It was a real adventure, as we got to discover the country, the culture, the beautiful scenery, and the wildlife. But unfortunately, we left feeling disappointed as we were clearly in the lead and could have easily won the rally if it had not been for a small issue. It is a rough event where you need to find a good balance between pushing hard and knowing when to take it slower. The weather can also play a big factor. But I feel comfortable on the stages and this year we are out for revenge, so that is what we are looking forward to.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Italia Sardegna
02-05 June 2022
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (Third in Championship)

“Last year Safari Rally Kenya was an incredible adventure, but also quite a big challenge. We thought it to be a very demanding event and it was, with rough roads and difficult terrain such as soft sand. It was also technically challenging, and we expect it to be the same this time. As always, the first priority is to keep the car together and finish. It is possible to push there 100% but you have to be careful not to damage the car in the process. Hopefully we can build on our win in Sardinia and get another good result in Kenya.”

Oliver Solberg (Fourteenth in Championship)

“Kenya is going to be very exciting as it is a really special rally. It will be very demanding and tough, but I am looking forward to competing there in the Hyundai i20 N Rally1. The country and the fans there are amazing, so it is a place that you always look forward to, even if it didn’t go well in 2021. But this year there are new possibilities, and we will be going for it again. Weather had a big impact on last year’s event so we will see if that is the same next weekend, but even if doesn’t we expect it to be a real challenge. The aim is to find a good rhythm, keep the car in one piece and score a good result for the team.”

2022 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally Kenya 2022 / 22nd-68th June, 2022 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

M-Sport Ford WRT

Craig Breen (Fourth in Championship)

“I am very much looking forward to Kenya and discovering what seems to be quite the adventure. For me, I’ll be discovering a new continent, I have never been to Africa before, so I will be soaking it all up.

“The Safari Rally is an incredibly prestigious and historic event that I’ve watched many times on the TV as a kid, so I cannot wait to see what it is all about. It will be a huge challenge for all the crews, but we have prepared well. Sardinia went well, and we want to try to carry that rhythm forward so we will try to bring home another good result this week.”

Sebastien Loeb (Eighth in Championship)

“It was nice to be competitive in Portugal, the feeling in the car was good which is encouraging, Kenya is something very different, but it’s better to know we were competitive in Portugal. I don’t know the Kenya of today, all I have seen is onboards, it seems to be rough with big stones so punctures could be an issue.

“Kenya is quite amazing; it is a rally where I have the most memories with wildlife everywhere during the recce. I know the rally is very different to when I last competed there, it is more like a WRC rally, and it is easier to do it this way. The difference for me compared to the other rallies I have competed on this year is I have no experience of the stages in Kenya, I have never done them before so it will be complicated.”

Gus Greensmith (Ninth in Championship)

“I am looking forward to Safari Rally Kenya, it is one of the best experiences, probably the best experience of the year to go and compete in Kenya. It is an absolutely beautiful place, but also the stages can be incredibly unforgiving on the cars.

“It is the biggest challenge of the year and probably the only rally where we cannot drive flat out on every stage. We do have to manage the wear of the cars and have some kind of mechanical sympathy. It will be a huge challenge; we were very strong here last year so we hope to have a good result together as team here this year.”

Adrien Fourmaux (Twenty-second in Championship)

“Last year was a great result for the team, especially for me, I was really happy with what we did. Kenya is a really different rally to others; it is not all about pace and it is easier to damage the car because it is so rough. Kenya is really nice as an experience, it is a really different culture, and I will be very happy to see everyone there. Last year there were a lot of spectators, I remember in Nairobi there were a million people watching the cars going through the capital.

“There are a lot of things to say about this rally, the wildlife in the stages is quite impressive when you are driving and it makes the experience so special. You have to watch the side of the road to make sure there is nothing coming!”

Summary

Last year when this event returned to the championship after a long gap, Seb Ogier won from Takamoto and Ott was third. M-Sport duo Gus and Adrien took fourth and fifth, with the Frenchman taking a stage win as well. There were also three R5 crews in the top ten and Elfyn took tenth place after having to restart following his impact with a rock on stage three, Kedong, near the end of the stage. Again, road position will be really important, with the fesh fesh dust making grip levels very tricky!

We could see a good battle between the two Seb’s, but Elfyn will fancy his chances this year. Hopefully his lack of knowledge on the stages that he missed last year won’t hinder him and Scott. It would be good for them to finish ahead of Kalle, Ott and Thierry, so that he can start to close the gap to the top championship positions. Even though Craig and Paul don’t have any experience, they should go well and could take stage wins. The Irish duo have shown good pace on events this year that they have not competed at for years.

 

The action starts Thursday afternoon, so do enjoy, and pop back at the end of each day to check out my daily reports.

Safari Rally Kenya 2021 Review – Seb and Julien take the win!

Here’s the incredible story of the return to the World Rally Championship to Kenya after 19 years away. Seb took his fourth win of the year as well, and a good lead in the race for this season’s championship.

After Thursday’s first stage, SSS1 the leaderboard looked like this.

End of day one (Thursday):
1 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3m21.5s
2 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +0.3s
3 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota Yaris WRC) +0.7s
4 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2.5s
5 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +5.0s
4 Takamoto Katsuta/Dan Barritt (Toyota Yaris WRC) +5.6s
9 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +6.1s
8 Oliver Solberg/Aaron Johnston (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +7.9s
9 Lorenzo Bertelli/Simone Scattolin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +9.0s
10 Adrien Fourmaux/Renaud Jamoul (Ford Fiesta WRC) +9.6s

Friday

The first full day saw 129km’s over six stages. The start list looked like this – Ogier, Evans, Neuville, Tänak, Katsuta, Rovanperä, Sordo, Greensmith, Fourmaux, Solberg, Bertelli. The crews would start with four-minute gaps between them.

The day’s first stage, SS2 Chui Lodge 1 – 13.34 km saw Thierry take the stage win from Ott with Kalle. The Belgian’s pace saw him jump from fifth into the rally lead in one go and he was nine tenths ahead of Kalle whilst Ott was now in third. There were further changes in the lower top ten as well. Dani Sordo moved into sixth, jumping up five places, whilst the duelling M-Sport teammate, Adrien and Gus changed positions with the Frenchman moving ahead into eighth place.

The next stage, SS3 Kedong 1 – 32.68 km was part of the last event in 2002 and the longest stage of this year’s event. Thierry was fastest again from Kalle and Ott again. There was disaster for Elfyn and Scott though. As they came to the last few corners in the stage, they cut too close early in a corner and the front right wheel clobbered a huge boulder that was hiding in the bush. This wrecked his suspension and wheel and they attempted to finish the stage but the car bogged down in the loose gravel and sand. He was done for the day. What a shame as he was building a gap to Seb and could have moved up a place.

Kalle took the next stage, SS4 Oserian 1 – 18.87 km and reduced the gap to Thierry by 3.1 seconds who remained in the lead. There was a change in the leaderboard though with Seb dropping three places after getting a rear suspension problem that meant that the rear was bouncing around! The two M-Sport drivers were going well, and the teams plan were clearly working well with Adrien and Gus setting the fourth and sixth best time respectively in the stage.

After the service break SS4 Oserian 1 – 18.87 km saw another stage win for Toyota and it was Kalle who was fastest from Thierry, whilst Takamoto made it a Toyota sandwich. The young’s Finn pace saw him take the lead from Thierry who was now in second place.

The second run of SS6 Kedong 2 – 32.68 km saw the Belgian fight back though and was a massive 11.2 seconds fastest than Kalle, retaking the lead by 10 seconds! Kalle and Seb were second and third in the stage with the championship leader passing Adrien for sixth spot overall. The Belgian did this despite getting a puncture on the right rear tyre as well.

The final stage of the day then, SS7 Oserian 2 – 18.87 km. Seb and Takamoto shared the fastest time with Adrien going third fastest. The big story from the stage though was the retirement of second placed Kalle. He bogged down in the fesh fesh on a tight uphill section of the stage. The stage was red flagged as his car was pulled out, and having lost over ten minutes the team told him to retire for the day.

Classification after Day One

1 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1:23:19.1
2 T. Katsuta D. Barritt Toyota Yaris WRC +18.8
3 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +55.8
4 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +1:49.4
5 G. Greensmith C. Patterson Ford Fiesta WRC +1:56.1
6 A. Fourmaux R. Jamoul Ford Fiesta WRC +2:19.1

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“We had some good stages today. Unfortunately, we also had a couple of punctures. Some parts were really rough with big stones, you couldn’t avoid everything; you had to just cross your fingers that you didn’t pick up damage. Thankfully, we were able to manage things and get the car back to service. We have learned a lot and the team will look closely at the car this evening to prepare for another challenging day tomorrow. Saturday’s stages have different characteristics, and I’m sure we’ll see more things happening, so we have to stay out of trouble.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Safari Rally Kenya
24-27 june 2021
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (3rd)

“For us, it was a consistent day apart from a bit of drama in the final stage with the tyres. I have been doing about 60% of my maximum today because it has been so demanding. We are only at the appetisers; the main meal is coming tomorrow. It is only going to get tougher. Even if you are two minutes behind, you could still win this rally based on what we’ve seen so far. The middle stage of the loop was really cool and looked like proper Safari. Overall, it was challenging, and I have to say we’re happy to be here.”

Dani Sordo (DNF, Super Rally)

“I had really been enjoying the experience of Safari Rally Kenya in the opening stages, so it was disappointing to have to retire. When you watch back the video you can see we took a stone in the middle of the road that broke the suspension arm on the car. After that, the steering locked so the car started to slide, and we went into the bushes. Nothing we could do – and we were lucky that we didn’t roll because otherwise we might not have been able to re-start. It was an amazing stage to drive, really fast, and I wasn’t pushing too much. We will aim to be back tomorrow to fight for points and to finish this incredible rally.”

Oliver Solberg (DNF)

“The first thing I have to say is that I am very sorry for the team. I know how much effort in terms of time and money Hyundai Motorsport, Andrea and Alain have committed in bringing us here.

“There was a dip in the road in stage two, we went through it and there was a shock for the car. That’s where the damage to the roll cage and the chassis came. The rules say that if you have a hit to the roll cage, for safety reasons, you cannot continue.”

Oliver worked on the car after SS2 and made it through the next stage. Unfortunately, they stopped in the next stage with damage to the right-rear suspension.

“It was a dream for me to come here to compete on this rally,” said Oliver. “What’s happened is my fault and for this I am very sorry. I so wanted to get through this adventure to make the finish on Sunday.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th)

“We expected tough conditions here and it has not been a surprise to see everyone having a lot of trouble today. We were a bit unlucky with the problem that we had this morning, which meant we had to drive slowly to bring the car back to service, but in the end, we kept fighting. This afternoon the conditions were even more extreme, but we managed to get through without big dramas. We’re back in fourth tonight and a lot of things are still possible.”

Kalle Rovanperä (7th)

“This morning I think we started quite smart, taking it carefully to see how the car will handle the rough parts, and then we picked up the pace a bit. The afternoon started well with the fastest time, and I think we were controlling it well. But in the last stage just after the start, a lot of dust came up from the ground and I couldn’t see anything, so I had to slow down, and then we got stuck in the ruts. It’s really frustrating because we were in a good situation before that. But the rally is not over and we will try to take what we can.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally, Kenya / 22-27 June, 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Elfyn Evans (DNF, Super Rally)

“It was a massive disappointment for our day to end so early. I made a fairly basic mistake, to be honest, and I’m kicking myself for that. The stone was sticking out further than what I had marked in our pace-notes and we clipped it. On an event like this, you have to try and fix something if you can, but once I could inspect the damage, I knew there was no chance to continue today. Now we have to look forward to the rest of the weekend and try and salvage something from it.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Gus Greensmith (5th)

“On most gravel rallies we have an ideal start position but on this ground it’s so soft and sandy in many places that we are actually at a bit of a disadvantage compared to the early runners. It’s a lot to learn, but I am delighted to be here, the Safari is a bucket list event for any driver and I am drinking in the experience.

“Fifth place overall is of course right where we want to be at this stage and it was encouraging to see the gap closing between my times and those of the leaders as the day went on.

“The team did a fantastic job to check the car in service and unfortunately it cost us a time penalty but we were able to press on through the afternoon loop. When the surface breaks up it’s a bit crazy, but then it’s also unusual to see warthogs and giraffes roaming around at the side of the stage as well!”

Adrien Fourmaux (6th)

“This is a legendary event and to experience it for the first time is like nothing that I have driven before. To be in a good position at the end of Day 1 is a big positive but you have to focus inside rather than worry too much about the times.

“You have to be careful with the car because there are so many areas of the stages that are crazy with how rough the ground is. We are running the suspension as high as we can but very stiff to protect the car from damage underneath, but the trade-off is that you lose grip. Even in the sections where you think you can push a little there are potentially things you can’t see so it’s nervous but enjoyable.

“On the last stage of the day I felt comfortable and was able to increase my pace on many sections because the road conditions were right for us to push a little more. I want to keep my pace for the whole weekend and then we will see what position that gives us at the end. “

Saturday

Six stages totalling 132km awaited the crews, with the longest stage being Sleeping Warrior at 31km! The start list looked like this – Sordo, Evans, Bertelli, Rovanperä, Fourmaux, Greensmith, Ogier, Tänak, Katsuta, Neuville.

The first stage then, SS8 Elmenteita 1 – 14.67 km and Thierry picked where he ended Friday winning the stage from Seb and Ott. In the battle of the two restarters of Elfyn and Dani, the Welshman was fastest and they were beginning their climb up the leaderboard.

Seb took SS9 Soysambu 1 – 20.33 km from Adrien with Thierry setting the third best time in the stage. The Belgian still extended his lead with Takamoto only setting the fifth best time. Elfyn continued to pull away from Dani as well.

It was another stage win for Seb in SS10 Sleeping Warrior 1 – 31.04 km, with Ott 5.9 seconds slower with Takamoto taking the third best time and taking a little bit of time from Thierry. Dani was faster though than Elfyn and the pair of them moved up the leaderboard now holding 17th and 18th overall, with a slight advantage to the Spaniard.

After the service break SS11 Elmenteita 2 – 14.67 km, Seb was quickest from Ott and Thierry. The M-Sport duo, Gus and Adrien continued to set times that placed them fifth and sixth both in the stage and were holding the same positions overall. Elfyn moved past Dani and into 16th overall.

Into the longer SS12 Soysambu 2 – 20.33 km and Ott was fastest from Seb by just a second, whilst Gus took an excellent third fastest time. Thierry continued to lead from Takamoto and in fact had increased his lead over the Japanese driver to 35 seconds. Elfyn and Dani continued to move up the field now into 15th for Elfyn.

All the drama for Saturday was saved up for SS13 Sleeping Warrior 2 – 31.04 km though. The cloud was developing in the sky towards the end of the previous stage and there were reports of thunder and lightning. The first few cars through set the pace and they had a little rain to deal with but the road stayed dry for them. As the leaders came through though the rain arrived in two of the sectors. First to have problems was Gus, as he slid straight on at the end of a long section of the stage. He managed to get back on track though without damaging his car. Also getting rain was Seb, Ott, Takamoto and Thierry! The Estonian was the one that lost out the most though. His windscreen was misted up on his side and he could not see a thing. He stopped the car and Martin and he wiped the screen clear with their hands! They were stopped for just under a minute and dropped behind Seb. The big news was that Thierry actually opened up his lead to almost a minute. The top three in the stage was Dani, Elfyn second and Adrien third.

Classification after Day Two

1 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2:45:04.6
2 T. Katsuta D. Barritt Toyota Yaris WRC +57.4
3 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC +1:15.5
4 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +2:21.2
5 G. Greensmith C. Patterson Ford Fiesta WRC +2:39.4
6 A. Fourmaux R. Jamoul Ford Fiesta WRC +2:51.4
7 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +11:04.3

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville (1st)

“I am relieved to be in the lead of Safari Rally Kenya after the final stage we faced today; it doesn’t matter by how much, keeping the position was the most important thing today. We have pushed hard over the past two days to be in front, so I fought hard and refused to lose the position. I knew that other drivers had rain in the stage, but I was already in wet conditions after only 3km. I realised that I was losing time already there, and that it could only get worse. I was determined to keep driving as fast as I could, even in the four or five sections where there was a heavy downpour. Keeping the car on the road wasn’t easy but we managed it – and we can now focus on the final day. It’s going to be another rough one, but I enjoyed those stages in the recce, so I hope we can have a trouble-free run and secure the win.”

Ott Tänak (4th)

“It started to rain quite soon after we started the stage, and unfortunately my side of the windscreen heater was not working. I had to ask Martin where the road goes but we couldn’t do that for 30kms in slippery conditions. We had to stop, clean and try to figure things out. The stage took a long time, and it was complicated. Tomorrow is demanding, and from the team’s perspective it’s important to finish, so we keep focused on the job in hand.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Safari Rally Kenya
24-27 june 2021
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (13th)

“Before I started the final stage, I saw the clouds and sent a picture to the team and said that something is coming. We were able to miss the rain and could be fast in the conditions. Taking a stage win was a nice way to end the day. Before that, as first on the road, the cleaning effect was very high, so we really couldn’t do any more. I didn’t have any particular target today; we focused on just driving and keeping a good feeling with the car. At times, it was slippery and demanding, so we had to be careful. I am not in any battle, I just wanted to make it safely to the end and not take any risks.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (3rd)

“It’s been a positive day. I think we did everything we could today, with a good pace, we kept the pressure on and it’s good to be back in the podium places tonight. We didn’t expect to have so much rain in the last stage; it started to pour down like crazy after five kilometres or so. We knew that when the ground here gets wet it can be very slippery and this was confirmed. Some sections were like driving on ice, so I’m very happy I kept the car on the road, and it also allowed us to gain a position. Tomorrow there are still some very rough sections to go through though, so it’s far from over.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally, Kenya / 22-27 June, 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (7th)

“The plan was different today, as we couldn’t really gain positions just through our driving, so we were just trying to avoid issues and see if something happens in front. The stages were not so soft today, so they were a bit more enjoyable to drive and we could keep the pace up without taking any big risks. Tomorrow I think the stages could be quite soft like on Friday, so it will be interesting to see how rough the conditions will be and what we can do on the Power Stage, because we still need to take care of our overall position as well.”

Elfyn Evans (12th)

“It was good to be back out today and to get experience of the stages here. It was quite difficult to read the road ahead in some places, so good pace-notes were quite key. In the afternoon the stages hadn’t deteriorated too much since the first pass, which was quite a surprise given the conditions we saw yesterday. But our main focus was on bringing the car back in one piece and making sure that we have a good car for tomorrow. The stages we have tomorrow are very demanding with quite different character between them. Of course, we’d like to target the Power Stage if we can; let’s see how it goes.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Gus Greensmith (5th)

“My car felt much better suited to the fast, flowing stages today. We struggled a little for traction in the deep, sandy ‘fesh-fesh’ that builds up in some of the slower sections of the roads here but I am happy that we have been able to show our true pace today.

“Among all of the drivers, when we talk to each other it’s clear that we are all experiencing many of the same issues, not least the way that the road changes from the first pass to the second after so many cars have been through. Also, the rally organisers have put rocks out to prevent cars going too far off-line when you cut corners, which weren’t there on the recce and which can get pulled out by the cars before you, which certainly adds an extra challenge.

“Your nature is to hesitate a little in that moment but I feel that we have generally gone as smoothly through the stages as we can. If we can get to the finish cleanly, I think we can all take a lot away from the experience.”

Adrien Fourmaux (6th)

“Hopefully one day the first stage win will come but it’s good to have good pace today. I was maybe a little too careful on the first stage of the day but on the second we were able to push and to be beaten to the stage win by the most successful man in the sport today is a nice fight to have.

“I was really comfortable on the second loop when we repeated the stages. I knew where the road was clean and where I could push, so there were times when I was able to show the speed that we have. It was a very positive day for us overall and with Gus and myself both in a good place to start the final day I hope we can bring the right result for the team. “

Sunday

The final day then and five stages totalling 53.49km of competitive action. The start list looked like this – Sordo, Evans, Bertelli, Rovanperä, Fourmaux, Greensmith, Tänak, Ogier, Katsuta, Neuville.

Into SS14 Loldia 1 – 11.33 km then and whilst Thierry emerged from the stage in the lead but it was game over again for the Belgian. The rear right suspension had broken, and he was out from the lead and out from the rally. Once again Hyundai lost a well-deserved win. Top three in the stage was Seb, Adrien and Ott.

Into the next one then, SS15 Hell’s Gate 1 – 5.63 km, the shortened power stage and Elfyn was fastest from Ott and Seb. New overall leader Takamoto was fourth fastest, just 0.8 seconds ahead of Seb and Ott now was in third overall. Elfyn’s pace was great to see and this brought him into 11th overall.

The next stage, SS16 Malewa – 9.71 km saw Adrien take his first ever stage win after such a strong showing in the last few rounds and M-Sports’ first of the season. Ott and Seb were second and third fastest. Seb and Takamoto were joint leaders of the rally as well! Elfyn was now into tenth overall, having passed Lorenzo Bertelli.

The penultimate stage then, SS17 Loldia 2 – 11.33 km and Seb was fastest from Adrien and Gus bringing the other M-Sport Fiesta to the top. Seb’s pace took him to the top of the leaderboard and now Takamoto was second, but looking at scoring the best result of his career to date.

The final stage of the rally then, SS18 Hell’s Gate 2 power stage – 10.56 km and the crews got to run the full stage. As always there was a tweak to the running order – Rai, Patel, Tundo, Sordo, Bertelli, Evans, Rovanperä, Greensmith, Fourmaux, Tänak, Katsuta, Ogier. Onker Rai set the early benchmark in his Polo R5 before the faster cars came through. Fastest time was set by Ott, with Kalle, Elfyn, Seb and Dani taking the remaining points paying positions.

Final Overall Classification – Safari Rally Kenya

1 S. Ogier J. Ingrassia Toyota Yaris WRC 3:18:11.3
2 T. Katsuta D. Barritt Toyota Yaris WRC +21.8
3 O. Tänak M. Järveoja Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1:09.5
4 G. Greensmith C. Patterson Ford Fiesta WRC +1:44.7
5 A. Fourmaux R. Jamoul Ford Fiesta WRC +1:54.6
6 K. Rovanperä J. Halttunen Toyota Yaris WRC +10:53.4
7 O. Rai D. Sturrock Volkswagen Polo GTI +29:26.4
8 K. Patel T. Khan Ford Fiesta R5 +33:30.4
9 C. Tundo T. Jessop Volkswagen Polo GTI +36:40.7
10 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota Yaris WRC +49:22.7

 

Let’s hear from the drivers after this incredible rally!

 

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier (1st)

“It feels amazing to win the Safari Rally. I didn’t think it was still possible after our trouble on Friday, but I always give my best up to the end to take the maximum points possible, and in Safari we knew many things can happen – and they did happen. I think that since our issue on Friday we’ve been very strong for the rest of the weekend. We had really good pace and the car has been amazing. It’s a huge step for both championships, so a very good day for the team. I also want to congratulate Taka who took an amazing result: It was not that easy to catch him at the end.”

Takamoto Katsuta (2nd)

“I’m feeling very good to have achieved this podium. It has been a really long weekend with a lot of things happening. Everybody has had some problems but we survived and that’s why we are in this position. I must be happy with this result. I did not expect to finish on the podium on the Safari because this rally is very special and all the top-level guys are so experienced. I expected it to be a tougher weekend for us but I’m really happy. I can still improve and hopefully in the future I can match Seb and win rallies. Thanks to the WRC Challenge Program because without it I would not be here: It has helped me to develop from nothing, so thanks to Toyota and to Akio Toyoda, and to the whole team.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally, Kenya / 22-27 June, 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä (6th)

“I had been waiting for the chance to go for some extra points in the Power Stage, and we had quite a good run. It was a big push, and with two hard tyres on the car it was not the best option. We were quite close to taking the maximum points, but four points was still really good. Overall, it was a difficult weekend and not what I was hoping for, but the team did a great job to keep the car going, so thank you to them.”

Elfyn Evans (10th)

“Today we were looking for points and we gave it a good go in the Power Stage, although it was very difficult to judge where the grip was. It’s disappointing to only come away from here with a few points after the error on Friday. But it was good to drive most of the stages and gain experience of this event for the future, and now we have to look forward and focus on Estonia. Credit to the team and to Seb for the victory, and I’m really happy to see Taka and Dan on the podium as well.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak (3rd)

“On the one hand, it is good to be back on the podium and to take maximum Power Stage points, but this has been another difficult weekend for the team. My approach to this event has been to drive at 50-60% of my maximum, to not make any mistakes and to be as smooth as possible. Friday was demanding, just as Safari Rally needs to be, and it was like that again this morning. It has been an impressive event, and enjoyable to do something different and unique, for instance the fesh-fesh on Friday, which was very challenging and like an adventure. It is a shame for Thierry that it didn’t work out for him this weekend. We now head back to Estonia, my home event, which should be fun.”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Safari Rally Kenya
24-27 june 2021
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (12th)

“It has not really been a good weekend for us. We had our problem on the first day, and we lost all of our possibilities to fight for a strong result then. After that, we hoped Thierry and Ott would be able to take some points, but it was unfortunately not straightforward. As a team, we are going through a bad period, but I am sure things will change. We will work through this situation together and come back stronger.”

Thierry Neuville (DNF)

“This is a big disappointment, not just for me but also for the whole team. It’s a tough time at the moment, as a team standing together, retiring from the lead for the third rally in a row. Basically, we came to a very slow corner, and at the exit suddenly I felt something break on the car. We tried to finish the stage but after investigation we saw that the damper had exploded, and we had to stop there. We knew this would be a tough event, but we were prepared for it and did the job – me and Martijn in the car, the mechanics, everyone. I enjoyed the weekend and had good fun. I felt comfortable in the car, we were fast and controlling the speed throughout the event, so there are lots of positives to take away. The motivation is still there we are just missing the luck, but we will regroup, find solutions and come back stronger as a team.”

M-Sport Ford WRT

Gus Greensmith (4th)

“Generally, it was a very good rally. Fourth and fifth was very good for the team, it brings us some good points. We had some bad luck with the rain yesterday but it was a very good and fair battle with Adrien this weekend.

“I always prefer to win on the road, so while fourth place is a great feeling it would be nice to claim it next time without a penalty for Adrien. Last time we battled this close together in Portugal I came out on top, this time it was his turn, at least in the eyes of the stopwatch! Nevertheless, a fourth-place finish is tremendous for the whole team and now it’s time to focus on Estonia. “

Adrien Fourmaux (5th)

“The only strategy this morning was to bring the car back. The Safari Rally has been probably the nicest experience that I have ever had in my career, a really great adventure. This country is sometimes completely crazy, especially the road sections, on the way back to the hotel yesterday we were completely blocked for more than 90 minutes but it’s a great adventure, the welcome has been truly amazing. I love it.

“The final day brought us the roughest, rockiest stages of the event but also the most beautiful, right up in the middle mountains with so many amazing animals that I can’t wait to watch it back on the TV. There was less time to enjoy it today but, on the recce, we saw monkeys, zebras, giraffes, everything to be honest.

“In spite of the time penalty, to end the rally, my second event on gravel in the Ford Fiesta WRC, with a stage win is an incredible feeling and I think it will bring good memories for a long time. Congratulations to Gus on his fourth place and thank you to everyone on the team, and thank you Africa.”

My Thoughts

Let’s start with Toyota. What a brilliant drive from Seb Ogier. He and Adrien held fourth overall on Friday almost two minutes from the lead. Their drive from that point brought them up the leaderboard was the kind of drive we have got used to from the champions. Takamoto led a rally for the first time and scored a well deserved first podium with a very measured drive. Quick when he needed to be and keeping it on the road when that was required. Kalle’s drive was really good and if he’d not got stuck and lost that time on Friday, then he’d have certainly been on the podium and maybe even been challenging for victory? Elfyn salvaged some points after a really surprising mistake on Friday, but it could have been so much more. At the time he was faster than Seb and could well have finished on the podium if not taken victory.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally, Kenya / 22-27 June, 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Moving onto Hyundai it was a case of what might have been again. They had full control of the lead and yet again the suspension on the rear just gave way. Ott came through and took a well-deserved podium after setting the pace on some stages and despite having his own problems with his car, at least he made it to the end. Thierry lost a well-deserved victory to be honest. He was very quick and even with the problems in the final stage on Saturday he’d increased his lead despite the huge rain that he and Martijn had to navigate through. Dani suffered a rare mistake, but returned like Elfyn to the fray and brought the car home providing good support for his teammates as well.

Finally, at M-Sport they came with a plan and stuck to it. Quick when they needed to be, Adrian and Gus set some good top three times, with the Frenchman taking his first ever stage win and M-Sport’s first of the year. Gus showed what a mature drive he is capable of and delivered a great result finishing in fourth overall.

2021 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round six

1 S. Ogier 133
2 E. Evans 99
3 T. Neuville 77
4 O. Tänak 69
5 T. Katsuta 66
6 K. Rovanperä 56
7 A. Fourmaux 32
8 G. Greensmith 32
9 D. Sordo 31
10 C. Breen 24
2021 FIA World Rally Championship / Round 06 / Safari Rally, Kenya / 22-27 June, 2021 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

2021 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round six

1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 273
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 214
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 109
4 Hyundai 2C Competition 28

 

Next rally takes place on the weekend of the 15th to the 18th of July with Rally Estonia. Pop back in the week before for my preview.

 

Safari Rally Kenya 2021 Preview

Well, this is going to be very special. The long-awaited return of the World Rally Championship to Kenya and the African continent is here! After nineteen long years we will get to see the most spectacular cars and crews at speed in the wilds of Africa.

The event last played a part in the championship from the 12th to the 14th of July 2002 and fan favourite Colin Mcrae took victory for Ford with Harri Rovanperä and Thomas Radstrom taking second and third for Peugeot and Citroen respectively. Richard Burns was the world champion driving a Peugeot 206 WRC, having won the championship in a Subaru Impreza the year before.

Well, moving onto this year’s rally, which has a total of 320 km’s of stages over eighteen stages. Let’s take a look at those now.

Safari Rally Kenya itinerary:
Wednesday June 23
Shakedown Loldia 5.40km (3.35 miles) 1301

Thursday June 24
SS1 Super Special Kasarani 4.84km (3.0 miles) 1408

Friday June 25
SS2 Chui Lodge 1 13.34km (8.28 miles) 0809
SS3 Kedong 1 32.68km (20.30 miles) 0905
SS4 Oserian 1 18.87km (11.22 miles) 1018
Service KWS Naivasha 1142
SS5 Chui Lodge 2 13.34km (8.28 miles) 1346
SS6 Kedong 2 32.68km (20.30 miles) 1442
SS7 Oserian 2 18.87km (11.22 miles) 1555
Service KWS Naivasha 1719

Saturday June 26
SS8 Elmenteita 1 14.67km (9.11 miles) 0808
SS9 Soysambu 1 20.33km (12.63 miles) 0908
SS10 Sleeping Warrior 1 31.04km (19.28 miles) 1022
Service KWS Naivasha 1157
SS11 Elmenteita 2 14.67km (9.11 miles) 1405
SS12 Soysambu 2 20.33km (12.63 miles) 1508
SS13 Sleeping Warrior 2 31.04km (19.28 miles) 1622
Service KWS Naivasha 1757

Sunday June 27
SS14 Loldia 1 11.33km (7.04 miles) 0726
SS15 Hells Gate 1 10.56km (6.56 miles) 0838
SS16 Malewa 9.71km (6.03 miles) 1045
SS17 Loldia 2 11.33km (7.04 miles) 1125
SS18 Hells Gate 2 10.56km (6.56 miles) 1318

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Sébastien Ogier

“I am always excited to discover a new challenge in my career, and I believe this rally will be very different from anything I have done before. We’ve heard a lot that we are going to have to set our targets a little differently: The way we drive nowadays in the WRC is by really pushing the limits all of the time, but when we go to Kenya it will be much more about trying to survive the rally without trouble. I think it can be interesting to have a challenge like this during the year. It has been hard to know what is the right way to prepare, so I think the drivers will probably have to adapt a bit during the rally, but the recce will certainly be important to understand what is ahead of us.”

Elfyn Evans

“Obviously, Kenya is a big unknown as none of the current drivers have been there to do an event before. Of course, I’ve seen a lot of the classic footage from the past and it all looks very spectacular. It’s not going to be exactly the same this time, as we’ll have a more controlled loop of stages, but I am nonetheless excited to go there and rally in a completely different environment. I suspect it’s not going to be the smoothest event on the calendar, and it could be a big test for the car and maybe for the crew as well. From what we’ve seen it’s quite an open landscape, so reading the road could be quite difficult, but until we get out there and have a look for ourselves on the recce, it’s very hard to judge what the biggest challenges will be.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“Kenya is going to be really interesting. It’s a new event for everybody and at the same time it’s also a really classic event from the past. The WRC was last there in the early 2000s when my father was competing, and I’ve seen all the old videos from then and he has been telling a lot of stories. Rallying as a sport is quite different now, so it’s going to be interesting to see how we will do those stages with the cars that we have these days. We know that it’s not exactly the same concept – we won’t drive such long stages, for instance – but it will still be nice to see if the conditions will be just as rough and as tricky in some places. Everything is going to be different but I’m excited for it.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville

“I think everyone is excited to have Safari Rally Kenya on the calendar. I have heard stories from drivers who have had the chance to go there in the past, who have described the adventure they lived at the time. It will be a different experience for us, as the rallying has evolved over time. I don’t know what is waiting for us, but I hope to come back with a big trophy. We’ll be seeing zebras, elephants and giraffes; it is going to be fun!”

2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 05, Rally Italia Sardegna
03-06 june 2021
Day 1, Action, Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Dufour Fabien
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak

“Safari Rally Kenya is a new event for me, and Africa is a place where I’ve never been. I am looking forward to it, although I expect it to a bit of an adventure. I have seen some footage from previous rallies; it is one of those events where to finish first, first you have to finish. It seems to be a wild, wild place – and it will definitely be different to anything else on the calendar, something special. Hopefully everything will work out in our favour.”

Dani Sordo

“We left Sardinia feeling unfulfilled with our weekend because we knew we were capable of much more. The car was fast and showed its potential on tough gravel roads. Kenya will be another challenge, but it is going to be an incredible experience. Safari Rally is like nothing else, it’s an event that we have never contested, with really unique stage profiles. I like to drive in these sorts of conditions; it’s going to be a hard rally like in the past, so let’s see how we get on. We’re hoping to score a good result for the team, who have been working non-stop to prepare for these events.”

Oliver Solberg

“I think you can believe me when I say I am excited about every rally I start. But this one is different. This is Safari Rally Kenya. I was eight months old last time the World Rally Championship was in Africa, so it’s pretty safe to say I don’t remember much about it – but I have grown up listening to my papa talking about the stories from this incredible place.

The Safari is really one of the total special ones. It might be different, I guess it’s going to be rough and tough and quite hard work, but isn’t it just fantastic to be going back to this place and this landscape. This is really what a world championship is about – going to these amazing places which provide some real adventure to the sport. Not that I want to be so adventurous… I already told Aaron [Johnston, co-driver] that he can do all of the tyre pressures this time. Somebody asked me if I was afraid of the lions? Of course, I am!

Seriously though, this rally is so different to Arctic and Alba, the two events I have done in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. I don’t have any experience of the car on gravel; OK it will be a little bit, sort of similar to the snow in Lapland, but the roads are so different. The recce is going to be incredibly important on this one. From the onboards we’ve already seen there are going to be some very, very high-speed sections slowing down into tight junctions. It can be easy to miss these places, so we have to be super-careful on the recce. Once we get into the event, I will be sensible. There’s some danger in every stage, this isn’t one to try to be a hero. I want the experience of this incredible rally.”

 

M-Sport Ford WRT

Adrien Fourmaux

“It’s really good that the WRC is going back to Kenya. It will be a really big challenge and we know from the past how difficult this rally was. Okay, it’s a shorter event this time compared to the old WRC event, but it will still be hard and completely different to what we know.

“I’m a bit too young to remember watching the Safari Rally when it used to be in the WRC, but I have seen some videos and it was amazing to see the Ford Focus with the extra bars at the front. We will not have this protection but I am sure we will find some giraffes and elephants on the stages so it will be really interesting and for sure we will have to be careful!

“I have watched the video of the organiser. In some places we will have to almost stop because it’s really rough, but this is when we have to be smart enough to say, ‘okay this section we have to be slow but this section we can be fast’.

“It’s really nice to know the last driver to win the Safari in the WRC was Colin McRae in the M-Sport Focus. It will be really difficult to do exactly the same result although you never know because a lot of things can happen. But I want to stay quite humble. It’s an honour for me to do this rally and I can only say thanks to M-Sport for this opportunity. To go to Kenya is really good but with the WRC car it’s a dream and I can’t wait discover not only the rally but the humanity and the landscape.”

Gus Greensmith

“I was five when Colin McRae won the Safari for M-Sport and didn’t know what rallying was. But it’s obviously a cool thing he did and we’ve got the Safari Rally Focus that Colin won in in the main hall at M-Sport so every time I’m at M-Sport I pass the car. Clearly, it’s a very fond memory for Malcolm and the team and it would be great to get another good result.

“I’ve asked Malcolm plenty of questions about the Safari, but it was obviously so different back then with open roads and very long stages. It’s a very different challenge now and kind of new for the people of who have done it before. It’s definitely a trip into the unknown for me – I’ve never even been to Africa – but I’ve been watching the organiser videos for quite a while. Usually, I watch them religiously to become more familiar with the stages because it helps me to write better pacenotes, but because the roads are so undefined it’s been a different preparation for me. But I’m sure we’ll find more definition when we get there.

“From what I’ve seen I don’t think I can compare the Safari Rally to anything else I’ve done. But I have shown I can drive to the conditions when I need to, like when I won WRC2 on Monte-Carlo and in Turkey.

“We’ve certainly made some very good steps forward since Croatia. Chris is back in car on this rally and it will be helpful to have his knowledge. My aim for the remainder of the year is to be consistently in the top five and keep my pace going forward. There’s no reason why that can’t be possible.”

 

Summary

New events are always interesting, as it levels the playing field. As you know, the crews will have to complete totally new stage notes throughout the recce days. Road position will be really key in this event. We just don’t know how the stages will change, and with Seb Ogier opening the road could we see him on the podium on Sunday? There are so many unknowns about this, which makes it a very interesting event.

Ott Tanak will want to take victory after missing out on almost certain victory in the last two rounds. Who else could challenge for victory? Well, Dani Sordo always goes well on these kinds of events and could be right at the front. What about Elfyn? Well again if he can get comfortable, then he will certainly also be near the front. What about Kalle? Can he repeat his dad’s podium from 19 years ago? That would be a story! It’s just too hard to call and it will be fascinating to see how things pan out.

Here’s Rich Millener’s thoughts from last year’s Autosport International Show, when I asked him about the returning event – “I think Safari realistically is going to be quite different from what people expect. I think a lot more of the European style event is likely. It won’t be horrendously rough, it won’t be huge great deep-water splashes, cars will look pretty much look as they are. If people are expecting snorkels and everything that goes with it, which is great but we have the reality of the costs of designing a one-off car and it’s not feasible for anybody.

However, having said that all new stages, very different from what we’ve seen, it’s quite sandy in places which is a different skill, fast and actually narrow in some places and if you go offline, there’s big rocks and everything. The temptation to cut will be there, but the reality of cutting might not be so ideal and there is the wildlife, you know that you can’t get away from wildlife, there’s still going to be that gone are the days of the star helicopters and everything that went along with that because going to that level again would be like doing two rallies for the price of one.

We can’t really afford it. It will be very interesting, we sent some people out to the candidate rally to try and understand what it’s about, we know a little bit more, but all these new rallies are good for the drivers, because everyone’s in the same boat, new stages and new pace notes. I don’t think any of the drivers this year have been to any of these places, so that will be interesting. We’ll just prepare in the normal way, testing is most difficult because we don’t know the exact conditions you’re going to get in Safari, so you don’t know where you’re going to test. We’ve got a few options in mind, and I think that will be a key part of doing well.”

Enjoy the rally and pop back next week for my full stage by stage report!

©2017 The Pitcrewonline