Battle of man and machine as crews embark on rally proper in Naivasha

World Rally Championships Safari Rally

France's Sebastian Leob navigated by Isabelle Galmiche racing on a Ford Puma cruise through Kasarani special stage on June 23, 2022 during World Rally Championships Safari Rally Kenya.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Day two starts at 7am in the spectator-friendly southern side of Lake Naivasha featuring Loldia (19.17km), Geothermal (11.68km) and Kedong (31.25km) stages which will be repeated twice.
  • Clouds were gathering Thursday night after scattered showers in some parts of Naivasha.

Plenty of action awaits fans all day long on Friday in Loldia, Kedong and Geothermal stages of the Safari Rally in Naivasha and, going by the results of the Super Special Stage held at Kasarani in Nairobi on Thursday, spectators are in for a major treat from the crews.

A pattern emerged of four category of drivers - the best of the best, ladder climbers, upcoming drivers, and those that are financially constrained.

WRC Safari Rally

Frenchman Sebastien Ogier and his co-driver Benjamin Veillas steers his Toyota Yarris during the WRC Safari Rally's Special Spectator Stage at Kasarani on June 23, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

World Rally Championship Safari Rally defending champion, Frenchman Sebastien Ogier, outpaced rivals in the in the WRC Rally 1 category when he comfortably won at Kasarani in 3:18.8 minutes, driving a Toyota Gazoo Racing Yaris, even scaring away the resident birds.

He begins rally proper today with a slight advantage after beating nearest challenger Thierry Neuville of Belgium in a Hyundai i20 Hybrid car by just five-tenths of a second, and the 2019 world champion Ott Tanak of Estonia, driving a Hyundai car, by a second.

“I came back (to Kenya) for the people. Its very colourful here and the people of this country give us amazing support,” Ogier, who will compete in a limited part of this season’s World Rally Championship programme, told Nation Sport.

World Rally Championships Safari Rally

Sean Johnston navigated by Alexander Kihurani racing on a Cetreon cruise through Kasarani special stage on June 23, 2022 during World Rally Championships Safari Rally Kenya.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

He is looking forward to a wonderful outing this weekend, as well as a repeat performance from last year ahead of 11 Priority One drivers.

“The challenge is going to be big. It is not the sort of rally I usually love because it is going to be really rough but we will try to survive it,” Ogier, who won the world title last season, said.

Kasarani proved to be an extension of the unpredictable nature of the Safari Rally.

A good example was championship leader Kalle Rovanpera’s experience at the Super Special Stage at Kasarani.

WRC Safari Rally

Rally fans wave Ugandan flags during the WRC Safari Rally Special Spectator Stage at Kasarani on June 23, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

The 21-year-old Rovanpera from Finland was the fastest in the Loldia Shakedown stage on Wednesday but on Thursday, he came face to face with the unforgiving nature of the Safari Rally, which is the longest leg of the world series in the world as it has a 355-kilometre competitive distance.

He was driving in his usual flair, raising a plum of dust and was destined for a good result but he took the first tight left hand corner rather fast and in a split of a second, ran wide.

He however managed to return the Toyota Yaris car back on course but lost 11.6 seconds to finish the day 11th.

WRC Safari Rally

Rally fans cheer on during the WRC Safari Rally Special Spectator Stage at Kasarani on June 23, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who is back in the Safari Rally for the first time in 20 years, showed that he still has the grip, finishing in fifth in a Ford Puma car.

The second ladder climbers, future drivers, and the near future drivers such as Martin Propop of Poland and Sean Johnston of Britain are in the P2 category.

They will wage their own war, joined by Kenya championship leader Karan Patel in a Ford Fiesta car. Propop, Johnstone and Patel finished  Thursday’s Super Special Stage in that order, occupying the 14th to 16th positions.

Africa champion, Carl Tundo, is the only lone ranger in the Safari Rally entered in the national championship class because his Mitsubishi car is not eligible compete in the WRC category, but he threw caution to the wind at Kasarani and easily out-sprinted those in the WRC category, sending a signal that he will take the battle to drivers ranked higher than him. He finished eighth last year.

Finally, the FIA Rally Star programme juniors will fight among themselves. Hamza Anwar earned the bragging rights after beating Jeremy Wahome, McRae Kimathi and Maxine Wahome in that order at Kasarani.

WRC Safari Rally

Kenya's Mcrae Kimathi, co-driven by Mwangi Kioni, steers his Ford during the WRC Safari Rally Special Spectator Stage at Kasarani on June 23, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Day two starts at 7am in the spectator-friendly southern side of Lake Naivasha featuring Loldia (19.17km), Geothermal (11.68km) and Kedong (31.25km) stages which will be repeated twice.

Clouds were gathering Thursday night after scattered showers in some parts of Naivasha.

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