Safari Rally: Series leader Neuville ready to leave rivals choking in dust

Thierry Neuville from Belgium during the WRC Safari Rally Kenya at Ndulele Conservancy in Naivasha. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

The World Rally Championship (WRC) series leader Thierry Neuville is optimistic to carry on with his trail blazing spree in the Safari Rally that revs-off in Naivasha on Thursday.

Neuville is already in the country ahead of the third leg of the championship normally considered to be the toughest rally on earth.

The Hyundai speedster is out to widen his current lead of 48 points following his top-place finish in the opening leg in Monte-Carlo (France) and a fourth-place finish in the second leg in Sweden.

Ahead of the Safari Rally, Neuville says he is not leaving anything to chance and this focus is what has led to his early arrival in Kenya for him to acclimatise.

In order to gather full concentration, the Hyundai speedster led a batch of other stars, including second-placed rival Elfyn Evans (Toyota), Gregoire Munster (M-Sport Ford) and Nicolas Ciamin (Hyundai WRC2) to the grand tour of the Maasai Mara at the weekend to relax their muscles before the expected stormy battle on the rough Naivasha terrains.

"I really feel energised now. From Monday, it will be full focus and concentration towards the Safari Rally," Neuville told Standard Sports.

"We had a good kick off of the season, obviously, we are still leading the championship and coming to Kenya much earlier only means we are looking forward to doing well," he said.

"I know its a rainy season and it will be a different scenario in the Safari Rally compared to what we have seen in the previous years, but it's always exciting to be here," he said.

Neuville, who was visiting the Maasai Mara for the first time, was inspired by his co-driver's awesome pictures he took of the Mara last year.

This is what prompted Neuville to visit the place this year.

"The Mara has a very beautiful landscape and just too different from what we are used to seeing back in Europe," he said.

"It is an enjoyable experience and something you have to do once in a lifetime and I'm  lucky to be here."

"When I'm driving my rally car in Naivasha, it always feels as if I'm on a Safari because of the beautiful landscape that we race on, but today, I'm happy to have a first hand experience."

"In Naivasha, there are a lot of zebras and giraffes but I'm happy to have seen the  lions and elephants at close range," he said.

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