What you need to know:
- With key title protagonists including Andreas Mikkelsen, Marco Bulacia and Mads Østberg absent, the Czech pilot is favourite to carry the day in the WRC2.
- “Since I was a small child, I watched this epic rally and I always wanted to be part of it. This year, my dream comes true, and I am very thankful for that,” Prokop was earlier quoted saying.
The confirmation of the M-Sport Ford team brought to 34 the number of confirmed drivers in 70th WRC Safari Rally who beat the May 22 deadline set by the International Automobile Federation (FIA).
More competitors are expected to register for the Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) category which is part of the WRC, Hellen Shiri, the WRC Safari Rally Event Secretary has said.
The Kenyan challenge has been beefed up with the entry of five times ARC Safari Rally champion Carl Tundo, also the WRC Safari Rally Chairman of the Local Organising Committee, navigated by Tim Jessop, in a car he will announce in due course.
M-Sport Ford is bringing in the 2019 world champion Ott Tanak of Estonia, Frenchman Pierre Louis Loubet and Greek Serderidis in Ford Puma Hybrid R1 cars, according to confirmed entries released by Shiri.
M-Sport has also entered Greek Georgios Vasilakis in a Ford Fiesta R2 in the Rally 2 category. Hyundai will field three cars for Thierry Neuville, Daniel Sordo and Esapekka Lappi.
Hoping for a third straight title defence chance. Toyota Gazoo Racing Team has a four-car brigade of world champion Finnish whizkid Kalle Rovanpera, Briton Elfyn Evans, eight times world champion Sebastien Ogier and Japanese fast-rising Katsuta Takamoto in the all-conquering Yaris GR which has won four of the last five rounds so far this season.
Tanak, winner in Sweden last March, and second in the WRC with 81 points 17 behind Rovanpera, is closely followed by Ogier who is looking for his second Safari victory and morale boosting and feel good wins in as many events he enters despite a limited calendar in the series.
Toyota leads the manufacturers’ table with 201 points followed by Hyundai, 169 points and Ford 134 points as the WRC stops in Sardinia, Italy, from June 3 to 6, in the second rough roads rally of the season before the engine-demolishing, shocks breaking Safari Rally under the unpredictable weather and rough terrain of Naivasha and Gilgil.
While the top runners will wedge their own closely fought battle which has seen Toyota win four races in Monte Carlo, Mexico, Croatia and Portugal, the Rally 2 class has brought together seasoned European professionals against a lean Kenyan team led by national champion Karan Patel.
A Dakar Rally ace, European champion and first time Filipino to compete in the World Rally Championship (WRC) line-up for a competition in the 70th Safari Rally edition which Karan and team are looking forward to match the results of 2021 where Kenyans won the top three WR2 positions in Onkar Rai, Patel and Carl Tundo.
Three-time European champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz returns to Kenya to defend his WRC2 title category for cars less inferior technologically to the WR1. Oliver Solberg of Sweden returns in a Skoda Fabia Evo, navigated by Elliot Andrew Edmondson of Britain.
This year’s Safari will have a special attachment for Filipino nationals in Kenya who will have the chance to cheer their own and extend the same to the Philippines where the exploits of Miguel Diaz are followed with keen interest since 2020 when he debuted in the WRC.
He is the first Filipino to compete in any motorsport competition elevating him to a sort of national treasure in a country better known for boxing, basketball, volleyball, football and recently ice skating despite the country being located geographically in the tropics.
Diaz, born to a Spanish father and a Filipina mother, has been campaigning in a Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo at the WRC level and competed in Monte Carlo, Finland, Sardegna, and Acropolis just to name a few.
Other drivers in the WR2 Polish ace Martin Kropkop and Ndenek Jerk in a Ford Fiesta, Kajetan Kajetanowicz/ Maciej Szczpaniak from Poland (Skoda Fabia) and Daniel Chwist/ Kamil Helper (Poland- Ford Fiesta R2).
Propkop is the nearest thing to be described as an all-rounder of the rough and tricky terrain and has proved to thrive through the notorious fesh fesh which has been condemned for choking engines from his Dakar Rally experience.
Besides sporadic FIA World Rally Championship outings, the 38-year-old has contested the Dakar Rally every year since 2016.
He will fulfill a childhood dream when he drives the Great Rift Valley roads again in 2021.
With key title protagonists including Andreas Mikkelsen, Marco Bulacia and Mads Østberg absent, the Czech pilot is favourite to carry the day in the WRC2.
“Since I was a small child, I watched this epic rally and I always wanted to be part of it. This year, my dream comes true, and I am very thankful for that,” Prokop was earlier quoted saying.