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Safari Rally: 29 drivers set for epic showdown as Safari Rally zooms off

Motorsport
 Kalle Rovanpera alongside co-driver Jonne Halttunen driving Toyota Taris car during shakedown at Loldia in Naivasha on March 27, 2023. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

The third leg of the 2024 World Rally Championship (WRC), the Safari Rally will zoom off today at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi.

An impressive lineup of 29 entries in the main category, featuring top contenders from across the world, is poised to tackle the challenging terrains in Nairobi and Naivasha in their quest to vie for glory in one of motorsport’s most revered events.

The opening round of the toughest leg will be held, after the flag-off, at the Kasarani Super Special Stage before the remaining races resume in Naivasha until Sunday.

The rally has extensive routes, spanning iconic locations such as Kedong, Malewa, Soysambu, and Hell’s Gate National Park.

The roads present formidable challenge to the drivers and navigators owing to the unpredictable terrains characterised with soft volcanic ash (fesh fesh) and inclement weather. 

Again, we are preparing to witness intense rivalry among the constructors; M-Sport Ford, Hyundai and Toyota Gazoo.

Series defending champion Kalle Rovanpera started the season on a rough note at the Rally Sweden and he is hopeful to make amends in the Safari Rally that will miss his team mate and leg defending champion Sebastien Ogier.

Many fans have so far tipped speedster Ott Tanak to clinch victory in the Safari after the Estonian super star crossed over to Hyundai stable last season.

Hyundai has the most stable line up comprising of Tanak, Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville who is currently topping the charts.

Rovanpera topped the Shakedown in Loldia, Naivasha yesterday.

Adrien Fourmax of M-Sport Ford, who is aiming to score valuable championship points, will be another dark horse to watch in the leg.

Locally, Carl Tundo is raring to go after he got a boost from gaming firm Betika. Tundo will be out to defend his WRC2 category if not winning the rally.

Local fans will also have plenty to cheer for, with African Rally champion Karan Patel and Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) winner Jasmeet Chana also out for glory.

Other locals to watch in the rally include Mitsubishi Evolution X trio of Nikhil Sachania, Andrew Muiruri and Minesh Rathod to Skoda Fabia Evo and Aakif Virani in a Skoda Fabia and Hamza Anwar of the Ford Fiesta Rally 3 marques. 

Alongside them will be the current KNRC leader Samaan Singh Vohra who will tackle the event behind the wheel of a Skoda Fabia Evo navigated by Alfir Khan.

The drivers underwent scrutineering process at the Service Park yesterday which is a key components of the rally.

It ensured that every vehicle meets the required safety standards before hitting the challenging terrain.

Additionally, medical teams have been put on standby with specialised equipment and personnel to provide immediate assistance if needed.

Eighteen spectator zones have been strategically located along the route to offer fans the opportunity to witness the adrenaline-pumping action up, close and candid to cheer on their favourite drivers.

Meanwhile, President William Ruto has made a rallying call to Kenyans to turn up in large numbers to watch the Safari Rally.

While welcoming the international rally drivers, Ruto said: “This Easter weekend, I join the people of Kenya to welcome top WRC Safari Rally drivers to Naivasha, in the Great Rift Valley, an incomparable beautiful destination in magical Kenya.”

 

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