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  • Writer's pictureDrew Bentham

WRC Rally Safari Preview 2024

Dramatic scenes on the Safari Rally

Safari is built on legend and the fires of creation, to create a some of the toughest, most challenging conditions to survive in. A caldron of fesh-fesh, large rocks and local wildlife all of which can catch out the unwary or uninitiated. And don't get cocky, because if the weather turns you'll be in a downpour worthy of a biblical text which will turn the fesh-fesh into slippy mud that will quite happily throw you off the road.

First held in 1953 as the East African Coronation Safari, the event was run as a celebration of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. In 1960 it was renamed the East African Safari Rally a name it kept until 1974, when it became the Kenya Safari Rally.

Held on roads still open to the public, it became notorious as the toughest round of the WRC. Arduous conditions, constantly changing weather and more than 5000 competitive kilometres made simply finishing an achievement. The event adopted the special stage format in 1996 and until 2002, it featured over 1000km of timed tests. In recent times the event has shrunk to fall in line with its European based counterparts.

The Competitors

Last months Sweden winner, Esapekka Lappi has stated that his approach to this years WRC Safari 2024 will not change after his recent win. Instead his role as one of Hyundai's part-time drivers this season, will still be to support his championship-leading team-mate Thierry Neuville as well as 2019 world champion Ott Tänak. Lappi endured an awful Safari last season, with his Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid suffering a myriad of propshaft issues, so he will be sure to be hoping for a far more trouble-free run this time out.

By contrast, his team mate Ott Tänak heads to this month’s Safari Rally Kenya in search of a drama-free event as he looks to stem the flow of points away from the top runners at the top of the table. His hopes of a big-points return to Hyundai went awry when he slipped into a ditch early in Rallye Monte-Carlo. The first morning’s competition on round two in Sweden went the same way, when hitting a snowbank caused damage to the radiator. Forced out for the rest of Friday, he ended the event 41st. Tänak heads to Africa for round three 27 points adrift of his championship-leading team-mate and title rival Thierry Neuville.

Hyundai go into this years event as leaders in the championship

The Jyväskylä-based Toyotas have lost the first two rounds of this year’s World Championship to its rivals at Hyundai Motorsport. Team boss Latvala is keen to prevent the hat-trick and has the stats on his side, as the team have not been defeated since the African classic returned to the series in 2021. Current world champion and former Safari winner Kalle Rovanperä, will once again be present to complete the line up alongside regulars Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta.

MSport expected to play it safe in Safari

For our third team on the entry list, the event will be somewhat of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the Safari is traditionally good to the Ford team, having yielded plenty of success in the past. But for their two fairly young and inexperienced crews, the Safari will most likely be just a learning experience without any risk. The best they could hope for is to stay in touch should the Safari bite some of the top runners.

Watch last years highlights

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