Fans to take vantage positions as hybrid rally cars hit dusty roads

Spectator during the WRC Safari Rally Kenya shakedown at Loldia in Naivasha on June 23, 2021. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Kenyan rally drivers were excited when a new-generation of Rally1 cars by top three manufacturers; Toyota Gazoo Racing, Hyundai Motorsport and M-Sport Ford were launched early this year in Salzburg, Austria.

The high-powered machines were unveiled just five days to the opening round of the World Rally Championships (WRC) Series, the Rallye Monte-Carlo in Monaco.

The stunning new vehicles are GR Yaris Rally1 by Toyota Gazoo Racing, Puma Rally1 by Ford M-Sport, and i20 N Rally1 by Hyundai Motorsport.

The road warriors revealed by the three constructors to compete across 13 rounds of the series on four continents including Africa (Kenya) will start jetting into the country next week for the much followed sixth leg of the WRC series, the Safari Rally, slated for Naivasha on June 23-26. This is part of the reason why some Kenyan rally enthusiasts cannot keep calm as they prepare to watch the powerful machines cruise in search of glory and honour in the global circuit.

“I’m a die-hard Toyota head. I look forward to watching our champion Sebastien Ogier, runner-up Elfyn Evans and other teammates like Takamoto Katsuta and Kalle Rovanperä behind the wheel in that beast,” Jacob Ochieng, a motorsports enthusiast, told Standard Sports.

“I think our new GR Yaris Rally1 is a great improvement from the version we had last season.”

Gus Greensmith navigated by Chris Patterson during the WRC Safari Rally Kenya shakedown at Loldia in Naivasha on June 23, 2021. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Local rally ace Rio Smith, the youngest competitor in the leg who will battle in the championships with his Ford Fiesta R2 machine, is grateful that this year’s Safari Rally will put him on the same wavelength with his childhood inspiration, Sebastein Loeb.

Loeb, a former world beater who has won the competition a record nine times, will headline the M-Sport Ford team composed of new-signing Craig Breen and the team’s hotly-tipped youngster, Adrien Fourmaux.

Fans intending to have a glimpse of the much talked about hybrid WRC cars need to be at the Ndulele Conservancy, off Moi North Lake Road in Loldia on June 22 from 10am.

Here, they’ll spectate as the beauties do their thing during shakedown on the challenging 5.4km stretch.

The shakedown will offer opportunity for the local and international crews to test their cars on the tough Kenyan terrain before the official start of the Safari rally.

The competitors must drive through the shakedown stage at least three times, with all passes being timed.

“It will be the first time the P1 cars will be driven on another surface other than Europe. We are proud of being the first country in Africa to host the Rally 1 hybrid -powered cars where crews will savour their first feel of the spectacular challenge ahead,” WRC Safari Rally CEO Phineas Kimathi said.

Kimathi revealed that this year’s edition of the Safari rally will once again retain its fabled reputation as the “World’s Toughest Rally” with over a billion fans expected to watch the spectacle.

The Shakedown will precede reconnaissance of the Kasarani Spectator Stage (SS1) where Priority 1 drivers will use their WRC Rally1 cars on June 23, at 7:30am.

Thereafter, crews will proceed to Kenyatta International Convention Centre at 11am for a press conference, which will be followed by the ceremonial start at 12:46pm.

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