Köln, Germany,
22
March
2024
|
10:00
Europe/Amsterdam

Safari Rally Kenya: Day 3

Summary

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing remains in front on demanding Safari

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team is targeting more success at the legendary Safari Rally Kenya when the only African round of the season takes place on March 28-31.

Since returning to the FIA World Rally Championship in 2021, the Safari has resumed its reputation as one of motorsport’s toughest challenges. It’s a challenge that TGR-WRT has risen to with three consecutive victories, extending Toyota’s record tally of wins on the event to 11. That includes a historic pair of 1-2-3-4 results in the past two years.

This year, the team brings another strong line-up featuring three drivers who each have multiple Safari podiums to their name. Double world champion Kalle Rovanperä won the event in 2022 and finished a close second last year, while Elfyn Evans has the chance to add his name to the winners’ list after finishing second and third in the last two editions. Kenya has been a happy hunting ground for Takamoto Katsuta too, as the rally where he achieved his first two WRC podium finishes in 2021 and 2022.

For 2024, the Safari returns to a more traditional date earlier in the year, having been held in June since its WRC comeback. This move could coincide with greater rainfall, with the potential to turn usually dry and dusty tracks into deep mud: conditions that have previously been responsible for some of the most iconic images in WRC history.

A change to the regulations means teams are this year permitted to fit Rally1 cars with snorkel systems – another notable feature of the Safari Rally in the past – to help them navigate deep water or soft sand and prevent engines being starved of air. For the first gravel rally of the season, TGR-WRT will also introduce an updated suspension system aimed at improving performance and reliability.

Modifications to the route will make this the longest Safari Rally of the modern WRC era with 367.76 competitive kilometres. Shakedown takes place on Wednesday before the rally starts from the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on Thursday lunchtime, with the competitive action beginning with the nearby Kasarani super special stage. The rest of the event is based around the service park on the shores of Lake Naivasha, about 100 kilometres to the north-west. Two loops of three stages around the lake on Friday are followed by the longest day of the rally on Saturday: this takes crews further north to Lake Elmenteita for another trio of repeated tests, including an extended version of the Sleeping Warrior stage. The action returns to Lake Naivasha on Sunday for another two loops of three stages, with Hell’s Gate hosting the rally-ending Power Stage.

Quotes:

Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)

“The Safari Rally is an event we always look forward to. This year, it could bring a different challenge with the change of date: now it’s the rainy season in Kenya so there’s more risk of difficult conditions. When it rains there, the stages can get extremely slippery and it can be quite a challenge for the drivers to tackle. Patience is always very important, and especially if the weather gets difficult. Being the smartest can be the key, rather than being the fastest. All of our drivers have shown what it takes to do well there and we would really like to see another Toyota win. It’s difficult to make significant changes to the car for this one event, but we are introducing a general update for the suspension. It’s also great that we can fit snorkels to the cars, which will not only look quite cool but also help if there is more water on the road.”

Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)

“It’s really exciting to go back to Kenya. It’s been quite a good rally for me and also for our team: we have got some really amazing results there. The atmosphere is also great so I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be interesting to go there at this time of the year, during the rainy season. We expect that it could be much muddier, and already in the previous years we have seen a bit of rain and it is always really tricky and slippery in those conditions. The biggest challenge will be to have reliable pace for the whole week, be consistent and stay out of trouble. Rally Sweden didn’t go as planned, so I’m really hungry to get a good result in Kenya.”

Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)

“The Safari Rally is the most extreme event on the calendar so it’s always an exciting one to go to. It’s more about the adventure than the pure thrill of driving but I’m looking forward to it as always. We’ve made a decent start to the year, taking good points from the first two rounds, but the Safari can be a bit of a lottery. We have to find that balance between pushing and looking after the car and see if we can be at the finish with good points, but that’s easier said than done. We’ve seen before that when it rains it can be very difficult, and we’re potentially looking at much more difficult conditions for a greater proportion of the rally and that could make things quite challenging.”

Takamoto Katsuta (Driver car 18)

“I’m of course really excited and looking forward to the Safari Rally: it’s a rally where Toyota has been really strong. But this time we will go to Kenya in a very different part of the year, so there could be more challenges in terms of the weather conditions. We have tried to prepare for all the conditions we could have, but you never know how it will really be until you get there. On this kind of rally it’s always important to have a reliable car, which I think is our strongest point. I was feeling disappointed after Sweden but I’ve been looking forward, preparing for this rally and to do my best to get a good result for the team. This is my next target and I’m feeling good.”

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