The week rally fans had been waiting for, is here.
The 2022 Safari Rally has arrived, bigger and better. It’s that moment yet again. For the next seven days, or so, Naivasha will be the centre of focus as rally fans catch a glimpse the amazing motorsports spectacle, which is regarded as one of the toughest in the World Rally Championships (WRC) calendar.
Below, Standard Sports compiles for you 13 unique things you need to know about this exciting and adrenaline filled sixth leg of the WRC series.
Perhaps, we have all been saying it incorrectly. The original name of the town where the battle, which will pit man and machine, is Nai Posha, not Naivasha. Nai Posha is a Maasai dialect which means “rough water.” It was used to refer to the frequent thunderstorms that hit the nearby Lake.
Do you know why the Safari Rally was launched in 1953? Well, this energy sapping race that traversed Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika, as the East African Coronation Safari, was meant to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of England. The queen was on holiday in Kenya a year earlier when she learnt of the death of her father, King George VI. Her father’s demise automatically made her the queen.
This 10.53km stretch in the Safari Rally route is one of the most scenic WRC Power Stages in the world. Dubbed The Wolf Power Stage, this section will sign off the Safari Rally on Sunday with the finish line located alongside the picturesque Fisher’s Tower. The location is quite popular with spectators, as it gives fans an opportunity to get close to the action of the final day.
Do you want to have an experience of a lifetime in the Safari Rally, seating in a real Rally1 hybrid car and calling out pace notes to a world beater? Well, this is possible in the championships, as you head to Naivasha, try your luck on Red Bull’s ‘Win a co-drive at the WRC’ promotion, which will grant a lucky Kenyan fan a chance to ride in a top rally car.
For the second year running, Fly540 racing driver Rio Smith will still be the youngest entrant in the Safari Rally at 19. He is followed by Oliver Solberg of Hyundai at 20 and Kalle Rovanpera at 21. Rovanpera is on fire. The Finn is destroying fields in the series at will. Already, he has opened a 55-point gap ahead of second-placed Thierry Neuville, also of Hyundai Motorsport. He won in Sweden, Croatia and Portugal and looks forward to stretching his lead in this Safari Rally.
While other contestants will be battling for glory at the Safari Rally, some drivers like Kalle Rovanpera of Toyota Racing Gazoo and Oliver Solberg of Hyundai will be out to break their fathers’ jinx in the circuit. Rovanpera’s father, Harri, finished second in the 2002 Safari Rally before Kenya went into a 19-year hiatus from the world championships. Solberg’s father, Petter, finished the 1999 and 2000 editions of the Safari fifth in a Ford Focus. Both will be all out to finish their fathers’ businesses in Naivasha, but only one will accomplish the task.
Former Kenya Motorsports Personality of the Year Nikhil Sachania will be the only paraplegic driver in the championships. The Samani Construction Ltd Project Manager will ply his trade in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X navigated by Deep Patel. Sachania has proved all and sundry that disability is not inability in the sport. This follows his rise from a near fatal accident in Athi River in 2011 that almost ruled him out of the game for life.
Lioness Rally founder Lisa Christoffersen and co-driver Pauline Shegu will be the only women crew in the Safari Rally. Christoffersen is a revered author while Shegu is a renowned media personality. Their move is a great stride for the championships. We just can’t wait to see how the ladies will fare in the battle.
African Rally Champion (ARC) series leader Leroy Gomes and wife Urshlla will be the only racing couple in the Safari Rally. The Zambians are back in the country after the Africa Rally Championships in Naivasha, in April. To them, every rally is a honeymoon, it’s like they are celebrating their wedding day in all competitions.
Did you know that alcohol is the main cause of gridlock in Naivasha during Safari Rally? Well, your truly didn’t know until the Kenya Motorsports Federation brought the point home. According to Safari Rally CEO Pheneas Kimathi, revellers trek over long distances in search of the froth and their back and forth movement across the town is what causes the massive traffic jam, as witnessed in the competition last year. To avert this crisis, the federation has partnered with a giant retail store, Quickmart, which will make the drinks available in designated zones. The fans can now quench their thirst with ease.
Last season, the Safari Rally was the most watched action of all the WRC series with a record 800 million households across the world following the action. It is projected that this record will be shattered this year to around one billion plus due to the anticipated battle of the world beating Sebs. Eight-time champion Sebastein Ogier and nine-time winner Sebastein Loeb are in town to wage a memorable war expected to be remembered by fans for a very long time to come. Ogier will be defending the leg while Loeb will be looking to better his fifth place finish in the rally in 2002.
Since their unveiling early this year in Salzburg, Austria, the Rally1 hybrid cars have not competed anywhere other than in Europe. At the Safari Rally, the cars will be racing for the first time outside Europe and local fans cannot keep calm. The high profile cars are Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 by Toyota Gazoo Racing, Hyundai i20 N Rally1 by Hyundai Motorsports and Ford Puma Rally1 by M-Sports Ford. For those intending to have a glimpse of the road warriors, Ndulele Conservancy in Loldia will be the place to be on Wednesday during the shakedown.
Did you know it’s only in the Safari Rally where two cars compete against each other at the same time in a WRC set up? You will never see this spectacle anywhere in the series. If you want to watch this amazing race, then be punctual at the Kasarani Super Special Stage in Nairobi on Thursday.