Lastly ! After twenty years of limitless ready, Safari Rally Kenya is making its comeback to the World Championship calendar. An actual a part of the historical past of the self-discipline, the Kenyan occasion alone wrote the legend of the WRC from 1973 to 2002 and left an indelible mark within the collective unconscious of any self-respecting fanatic. Raised to the rank of true fantasy of the championship, the Safari stays unbeatable regardless of the diversifications needed for immediately’s world.
With its 320.19 kilometers timed, the 2021 version is inevitably pale within the face of the 6000 kilometers of “journeys” of yesteryear. After a shakedown run this Wednesday from 12:01 p.m. (in France), 18 specials unfold from Thursday to Sunday can be on this system for the sixth spherical of the World Championship and to be adopted on Motorsport.com. In its watered-down model tailored to the present WRC, nevertheless, the Safari retains its epic character and stays an journey for all to see. Its diversified and unknown route, its wildlife and its wild landscapes and the unpredictability of Africa make it, regardless of these adjustments, a rally all the time aside!
Situated on the equator, Kenya is usually cradled by excessive temperatures all year long. On the finish of June, the primary wet season ends to provide approach to the second dry season of the yr from July to August. If Europe enters absolutely into the summer season, Kenya paradoxically approaches “winter” at the moment of the yr. Temperatures stay excessive, nevertheless, with averages blithely exceeding 30 ° C.
Planted at an altitude of greater than 2000 meters, Naivasha, the host metropolis of the rally, logically has a extra temperate local weather with a mercury which ought to peak at round 20 ° C this week and funky nights. On paper, the situations subsequently appear to be met to spare the rivals even when doable thunderstorms stay to be thought-about.
54 crews are lastly anticipated in the beginning of the problem of the yr! Removed from its European bases, the WRC has however met with nice success, like the newest editions of the Safari, that are nonetheless in style. Among the many 16 non-African crews current this weekend, 11 will line up within the WRC. If Toyota and Hyundai hold a line-up equivalent to that of Sardinia, Dani Sordo being changed by Craig Breen in Estonia, M-Sport as soon as once more trusts Adrien Fourmaux within the second Ford Fiesta WRC.
Pierre-Louis Loubet, in the meantime, ignores Kenya for “analyze what has not labored for the reason that begin of the season” and thus leaves his place to Oliver Solberg within the i20 Coupe WRC of the 2C Competitors group. Solely three weeks after his bundle in Sardinia, attributable to quarantine linked to the COVID protocol, the Swede is again within the high class after a profitable first on the aspect of the Arctic Rally Finland. Absent for the reason that winter check, Lorenzo Bertelli can also be again behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta.
Following the packages of Mikkelsen, Bulacia and Suninen for primarily logistical causes, Martin Prokop is the one consultant in WRC2 whereas in WRC3, Carl Tundo appears to have a head begin along with his 5 victories in Safari (excluding WRC).
The pilot to observe
If he’s clearly not one of many favorites for the ultimate victory this weekend, Sobieslaw Zasada will nonetheless make his mark within the historical past of the World Rally Championship by turning into the oldest competitor within the WRC. On the top of his 91 years, the Pole is about to take the beginning of his eighth Safari Rally. 24 years after his final participation, the motive force of the Ford Fiesta Rally3 has expressed his curiosity on the concept of taking on this new problem the place his solely goal will clearly be to achieve the end!
The closed door now appears to be a distant reminiscence for the World Rally Championship. After Portugal and Sardinia, Kenya is able to welcome the general public regardless of a protocol nonetheless in place and well-defined areas. With employees vaccinated since final April, the group has warned these on the sting of the specials dealing with a way more palpable hazard than the virus.
On specials traced within the Kenyan savannah, the native fauna is without doubt one of the important components to have in mind for this weekend and represents an actual risk. Final April, Croatia defied the prohibitions by relaunching the picnic vogue on the sting of the specials. Two months later, Kenya is hoping it isn’t getting in the identical path.
The quantity to recollect
5949, the variety of kilometers of the 1977 version of the Safari Rally which stays to this present day the longest occasion of the WRC. Listed in 1973 (yr of its creation) on the calendar of the World Rally Championship, the Kenyan occasion was thought-about on the time as an actual marathon. The 61 groups registered in the beginning then launched into a five-day “epic” (from April 7 to 11) the place, not like present rallies, there was no timed part. The classification was established on the passage occasions allotted to time checks on roads open to visitors. The pilot who acquired the fewest time penalties on the finish of the journey thus entered his identify on the prize checklist.
In indescribable situations as solely the Safari Rally might provide, the boys and the mechanics had been put to the check and few had been the “survivors”. Of the sixty vehicles concerned on this galley, solely 12 managed to achieve the end line in Nairobi, together with Bjorn Waldegard’s Ford Escort RS1800. The Swede then provided his fourth victory within the World Championship, the primary with the Escort with which he received the world title two years later.
He additionally took the chance to open his counter on the African occasion the place he signed the feat of profitable 4 occasions (the WRC file). After 1977, 1984 and 1986, Waldegard triumphed for the final time in his profession in 1990 on the legendary Safari driving a Toyota Celica GT-Four, at 46 years and 155 days, a file nonetheless legitimate.