What you need to know:
- World Rally Championship series leader Kalle Rovanpera, navigated by Jonne Halttunen, will be the first off the ramp at 12.45pm.
- The Toyota Gazoo Racing crew will be followed by Hyundai Shell Mobis team of Thiery Neuville and his co-driver Martin Wydaeghe. From KICC, the crews will head to Kasarani for the Super Special Stage (SS1), which is the first stage of the competition, then head to Naivasha for overnight stay.
Reigning World Rally Championship Safari Rally winner Sebastien Ogier says he will employ a cautious approach to this year’s competition that will be flagged off from the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi Thursday by President Uhuru Kenyatta from 12.45pm.
On Wednesday, the Frenchman said he will need some luck as he employs a cautious approach because this year’s competition is longer, and more challenging and so things could turn out dramatic on Sunday at Loldia and Narasha stages of the competition.
“I believe we are going to have fun to drive in some sections. In others we have to try to be clever,” the Frenchman said Wednesday in the pre-event press conference at the media centre.
World Rally Championship series leader Kalle Rovanpera, navigated by Jonne Halttunen, will be the first off the ramp at 12.45pm.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing crew will be followed by Hyundai Shell Mobis team of Thiery Neuville and his co-driver Martin Wydaeghe. From KICC, the crews will head to Kasarani for the Super Special Stage (SS1), which is the first stage of the competition, then head to Naivasha for overnight stay.
On Friday, the cars will restart the competition and tackle the second stage (SS2) in Naivasha.
Once in Naivasha for Friday’s programme, the fine volcanic soil known as ‘‘fesh fesh” could cause the crews some challenges because nobody knows what is underneath the dust.
There could be other unknown challenges should it rain.
“We have seen some conditions which look much harder than last year, so I think everybody is going to get into trouble at some point. Everybody is saying it is going to be a bigger challenge than last year. Some sections have more rocks. It can also get some overheating inside the car,” Ogier said after surveying the route and testing the car at the shakedown stage Wednesday.
Hyundai i20 Hybrid driver Neuville from Belgium, who led the Safari Rally well into the final day last year, recalled the bad experience after the car broke a rear suspension. He is not ruling out misfortunes.
“We are seeing a lot of trouble for everybody especially on Sunday stages which are dusty and could hide some rocks. I don’t know how it is going to evolve. But I feel great.”
Nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, returning to the Safari after 20 years, said although shorter, the Safari still looks the same.
“We had long stages then. I think the Safari is most improved but the format has changed. We were on radio communication with the helicopter pilot who was telling us whether there was something ahead, or some tracks coming. The roads have improved. So the best approach will be not of pushing hard. It’s important to go to the end,” said the Ford Puma driver.
To prepare, Loeb has been watching videos from last year.
“I have a lot of memories and new knowledge of the Safari. I have been watching . Its quite incredible to drive in the middle of all these animals. It’s a bit like a Safari. It good to be back here. I wanted to come back because I have a lot of memories from Kenya when I was here 20 years ago,” he said.