Weeks after the confirmed entry list for the World Rally Championship Safari Rally which takes place from 22 – 25 June,excitement is already building for the legendary gravel event, billed the toughest fixture on the WRC calendar.
The seventh round of the 2023 World Rally Championship (WRC) gets underway in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi and resort town of Naivasha, after being flagged off at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park having attracted a stellar line up comprising of both international and local drivers
The spectacle features 10 top-level Rally1 cars, 11 WRC2 runners plus a five-strong WRC3 line-up
The youthful speedster Kalle Rovanperä and France’s Sebastien Ogier – winners of the previous two editions – both field Toyota GR Yaris cars along with Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta, the Japanese star twice a podium finisher in Kenya will be among the participants.
Hyundai Motorsport has entered a trio of i20 Ns for Esapekka Lappi, Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo, while Ott Tänak, Pierre-Louis Loubet and privateer Jourdan Serderidis will pilot M-Sport Ford Pumas.
Kajetan Kajetanowicz tops the WRC2 entry in a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, while other entrants in the premier support category include Grégoire Munster (Ford Fiesta Rally2) and Karan Patel (Ford Fiesta R5).
The Safari Rally was born as the East African Coronation Rally in 1953 as a motoring event to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of England who was on holiday in Kenya one year earlier when she learnt of the death of her father, King George VI.
With a record five Safari Rally victories to his name, the late Shekhar Mehta is regarded as one of Africa’s rallying legends as he tops the Safari’s WRC roll of honour with five wins.
Mehta, a Kenyan of Indian descent, had already contested the Safari multiple times but had so far been unsuccessful in getting the victory he so desperately wanted. That was until 1973, when the event formed part of the WRC’s inaugural season.
The Safari is projected to attract over 70 million TV viewers in 150 countries, making it one of the most-watched global events this year.