What you need to know:
- Parliament’s sports committee backs Kenya round
- Spanish Rally as Ogier loses ground
- Belgian dominates Spanish Rally as Ogier loses ground, title fight stays open
Excitement is already building up in Kenyan rallying circles after Friday’s announcement of June dates for the 2022 WRC Safari Rally.
The WRC Safari Rally is penciled for June 23 to 26 with the WRC Promoter announcing a 50-50 split between European and long-haul rounds by including the Kenyan, New Zealand and Japan rounds.
The WRC is also looking to enter a more sustainable age next season with exciting top-tier hybrid Rally1 cars blending 100kW electric motors and the existing combustion engine, while a hydrocarbon-based fossil-free fuel will be 100 percent sustainable.
The 2022 calendar was approved at the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council in Paris and WRC Promoter managing director Jona Siebel.
Both WRC Safari Rally Chief Executive Officer Phineas Kimathi and Patrick Makau, the Chairman of the National Assembly’s Departmental Committee on Sports, Culture and Tourism on Saturday said the entrenchment of the Safari in the WRC calendar was testimony to FIA’s confidence in Kenya’s organizational abilities.
“The countdown begins now with our preparations. It is an exciting moment for the team to be fully alert with about 240 days to go before Kenya features again in the World Rally Championship series,’’ said Kimathi who is currently in Europe for the Spanish round of this year’s World Rally Championship.
“As you are aware we have big WRC Teams like Hyundai, Toyota and Ford that will return to the Safari Rally in addition to a vast number of local drivers.” Makau said the trickle-down effect of the WRC Safari Rally will benefit local businesses.
“After yesterday’s calendar release, I’m very happy that now Kenya has been given the power and the privilege to host the WRC round again in Naivasha,” noted Makau, also in Spain for the WRC round.
“This is a big achievement, an economic booster that will give rise to tourism. As chairman of sports in the Parliament of Kenya, I’m in support of this because when you look at the trickle-down effect, people will get business and our youth will get employment.”
Could have gone faster.
They spoke as Thierry Neuville continued to control the Spanish Rally yesterday as Elfyn Evans kept alive his chances of catching Toyota team-mate Sebastien Ogier in the title race.
Neuville, who won the last three stages on Friday, reeled off all three Saturday morning but said after the final stage that he could have gone faster.
“I had a good stage,” he said. “I was a little more careful in this one there were a lot of cuts and I don’t want to risk the punctures. Still struggling with understeer. Without that we could have been faster.”
Ogier, who entered the rally leading Evans by 24 points in the standings, was fourth in every stage. Evans finished ahead of the Frenchman twice.
“Not too bad in here to be honest,” said Evans explaining he was also having problems cornering. “Still struggling a bit with the car rotation. I just can’t get on the power early enough and hold my line, so we need to work on that.”
The Welshman stayed second and, while he lost ground to Neuville, dropping to 9sec back, he increased his advantage on Ogier, who is third, to 23sec.
Ogier had another problem. With the Hyundais seemingly growing stronger on the sweeping asphalt roads, their Spanish driver Dani Sordo, in fourth, closed to 0.2sec behind Ogier with second place and a 6.1sec gain on the final stage of the morning.
For Jari-Matti Latvala, the Toyota team boss, the title battle between his two drivers meant his glass was at least half full.
“Its always for the championship best when the fight is decided in the final rally,” he said after the morning stages, before switching his attention to the team title, where only Hyundai could catch Toyota.
“Looking like Neuville is running away, which means the championship fight will continue. Let’s hope we can get two cars on the podium. That’s the most important thing for the manufacturers’ championship,” said the Finn.