A total of 34 drivers both locally and beyond have so far confirmed taking part in this year’s seventh leg of the World Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally scheduled for Naivasha on June 22-25.
Veteran driver Carl Tundo, who doubles as the WRC Safari Rally Local Organising Committee chairman navigated by Tim Jessop will be among the Kenyan elite representatives at the global spectacle which is on Kenyan calendar until 2026 following extension by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA)
Other Kenyan drivers include Kenya National Rally Championship winner Karan Patel navigated by his long term partner Tauseef Khan in a Ford Fiesta Rally 2.
Nikhil Sachania is the only confirmed paraplegic driver in Africa who has a custom-built rally car with no foot pedals and will be co-driven by Deep Patel in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X NR4.
“The good thing is that we have already secured a sponsorship for our participation in the rally, what now remains are several test drives in Athi River before we descend to Naivasha for the completion,”said Sachania.
The government has already disclosed its plans of sponsoring the promising FIA Young Star drivers namely Jeremiah, Wahome/Victor Okundi, Hamza Anwar/Adnan Din and McRae Kimathi/Mwangi Kioni even as they seek leading from the front by working together with the event’s secretariat and sporting arm to exceed the level of success which has been recorded in the last two editions.
The world and Safari Rally defending champion Kalle Rovanpera of Finland, navigated by compatriot Jonne Halitunen, leads the Toyota assault in the Toyota Yaris GR R1 Hybrid which has won four of the last five rounds this season.
Frenchman Sebastien Ogier, the winner here in 2021, and victorious in WRC Monte Carlo and Mexico rounds this year co-driven by Vincent Landais is the second Toyota driver entered in Safari Kenya to score WRC points despite having a limited competition programme this season.
Others are Briton Elfyn Evans, winner in WRC Croatia last month, and Japanese Katsuta Takamoto, second here in 2021 driving a Toyota Yaris GR.
The Safari of old has evolved to fit the modern-day WRC, but its character remains with challenging closed dirt roads, stunning picture-postcard scenery and exotic wildlife.
Competitors can expect rocky and rutted tracks and unpredictable weather which could transform dry and dusty trails into glutinous mudbaths.
The Safari Rally was first held in 1953, as the East African Coronation Safari in Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika as a celebration of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
In 1960 it was renamed the East African Safari Rally and kept that name until 1974, when it became the Kenya Safari Rally.