It's time for Vroom as President Ruto flags off Safari Rally

President William Ruto flagging off vehicles during 2023 WRC Safari Rally at KWS Service park Naivasha on June 21, 2023. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

The seventh leg of the 2023 World Rally Championship (WRC), the Safari Rally, will officially rev off on Thursday.

President William Ruto flagged off the competition in Naivasha on Wednesday where he watched the exciting 5.4km Shakedown at the Ndulele Conservancy in Loldia.

The 4.84kms Kasarani Super Special Stage in Nairobi will officially open the contest today at 2pm.

Here, the spectators will watch two cars race at a time.

The cars will then head back to Naivasha for the overnight Parc Ferme.

Safari Rally defending champion Kalle Rovanpera of Finland will be out for a double.

The world champion denied his Toyota Gazoo Racing team mate Sebastien Ogier victory in the leg last year.

Ogier is also hopeful for a double after clinching the African circuit in 2021.

Toyota has lined up a very strong squad in this year's event. Rovanpera, Elfyn Evans, Takamoto Katsuta and Ogier who swept the podium with a 1-2-3-4 finish in that order last season will ply trade for the Japanese constructor.

The last time such an achievement by Toyota happened in the Safari Rally was in 1993 won by Juha Kankkunen who is also in Naivasha to watch this year's spectacle.

Hyundai team, composed of Esapekka Lappi, who is visiting Africa for the first time, Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo are also buoyed in the Safari Rally after bagging a 1-2 finish in the sixth leg of the series in Italy early this month.

Hyundai have declared they are the team to watch, they have great hope of sweeping the podium.
M-Sport Ford, comprising of 2019 world champion Ott Tanak, Pierre Louis Loubet and Jourdan Serderidis are also dark horses in the Safari.

All the top three constructors will ply trade in Rally 1 hybrid cars which emits hydrocarbon fossil free fuel, promoting environmental sustainability programme by the series.

President William Ruto flagging off vehicles during 2023 WRC Safari Rally at KWS Service park Naivasha on June 21, 2023. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Kenya's onslaught will be led by national champion Karan Patel.

Kenya has also fielded four women crew in the rally led by media personality Pauline Shegu who is navigated by Linet Ayuko.

Others are Natasha Tundo/Shantal Young, Carolyne Gatimu/Tinashe Gatimu and Jennifer Malik/Wangui Mungai.

Patel (Ford Fiesta), Piero Cannobio (Hyundai i20 N), Aakif Virani (Skoda Fabia), Samman Vohra (Skoda Fabia) and Carl Tundo (Skoda Fabia) will gather points in the WRC2 class.

The WRC3 category will be without defending champion Maxine Wahome this season.

Instead, FIA Star drivers McRae Kimathi, Hamza Anwar and Jeremiah Wahome will score points in the category.

Nikil Sachania (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10), Minesh Rathod (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10), Josiah Kariuki (Subaru Impreza), Evans Nzioka (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10) and Edward Maina (Subaru Impreza) among others will score points in the national championship.

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