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Mechanics rush to give machines final touches

 Toyota Gazoo Racing service crew work on Kalle Rovanpera's car at the Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

The Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute in Naivasha was the place to be yesterday as teams and manufacturers rushed to fine-tune their machines ahead of today's opening 4.9km Kasarani Super Special Stage in Nairobi.

Mechanics dripping in sweat, overalls stained in oil, roaring generators, bursting tyres due to high pressure, creaking welding machines, tool boxes falling with a thud from giant cranes were just some of the sights and sounds that marked the busy Safari Rally headquarters at the lakeside town.

Toyota Gazoo Racing top mechanics and chief engineers were busy assembling and fixing their GR Yaris Rally1 hybrid cars, which will be among those to be flagged off by President Uhuru Kenyatta at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi.

From KICC, the drivers will head to the Kasarani Super Special Stage for the opening competitive lap. The other 19 stages of the rally will be in Naivasha.

Those expected to ply trade for Toyota include the series leader (on 120 points) Kalle Rovanpera, Takamoto Katsuta, Elfyn Evans and Safari Rally defending champion Sebastien Ogier.

"We have a mountain of work to complete today, perhaps this might extend up to midnight," Toyota Gazoo Racing Set Up Crew, Yuho Palojoehsuu said.

More secretive was the Hyundai Motorsport team, who tightly marked and guarded their territory, covering their front door garage, perhaps to avoid attention on their i20 N Rally1 cars that were being fixed.

Second-placed Hyundai in the manufacturers rankings, have made it clear that they want to use the Safari Rally to topple their perennial rivals and leaders Toyota, who have 200 points.

Hyundai have 161, while M-Sport Ford, who are fronting a Ford Puma Rally1, are third on 120.

M-Sport Ford have six giant super tents where their vehicles were rested for servicing ahead of the rev-off. 

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